How would you feel?

It is midafternoon, you arrive at the airport, check in and go through security with no problem.

You are relaxing inside the airline lounge before a long transatlantic flight.

On a fluke, you check availability for business class. After all, it is a long flight from Los Angeles to London. You worked late the night before and would like to be well rested upon arrival. The airline employee in the lounge is friendly and helping you with your requests. She reserves a center aisle seat, and you are looking forward to a more relaxed flight in business class, overnight to Europe.

Everything went perfect so far. No major holdups at the check-in counter, nor going through security. You had a little time to relax in the lounge, grab a bite to eat and drink.

Now, with your newly acquired boarding pass for business class, you are on your way to the gate. Boarding has already started, and you get on the plane without waiting. You find your seat, place your carryon luggage in the overhead compartment get ready to sit down and that is when you notice it.

First, you notice something that looks like paper napkin in the crack between your backrest and seat. Then, you notice more garbage in the small storage compartments right next to your seat.

Not a big deal, you just find a flight attendant to let her know about it.

And that is when it happened!

After you tell her that your seat has not been cleaned and that there is still some garbage left, all she says is “That is not my job, I do not work this cabin,” ignores you and walks away.

How would this make you feel? Angry, mad, or disappointed?

This is exactly what I encountered a few years ago on a flight from Los Angeles to London!

How did I feel? I was neither angry nor was I mad.

The closest feeling was being surprised at her response, followed by disappointment.

I had just paid for an upgrade to business class, was treated well in the lounge and then this. Her behavior was the total opposite from what I just had experienced in the lounge.

Flying business class or first class comes with a certain level of service. At least for me, it does.

I was surprised that she did not apologize. Something to the effect of “Sorry to hear that.”

I was surprised that she did not seem to have any interest in helping me. “I do not work this cabin, but let me find my colleague who does, and can help you,” could have been something else she could have said.

Again, how would you have felt and what would you have done next?

What did I do? I looked for another flight attendant. I told her about my dirty seating area and my short interaction with her colleague.

Guess what happened next?

She was very apologetic. Not just for the way my seating area looked, but also for her colleague’s behavior. She took care of it and asked me if I wanted anything else. She made it clear that if there was anything else I needed during the flight to let her know!

What a difference in attitude, communication skills and behavior.

She made me feel that she cared.

Throughout the flight, her behavior was outstanding. I remember that when I ordered a brandy, when she brought it, she said that she warmed it up a little for me. I remember her bringing me some extra dessert chocolate. And I remember that she kept checking whether I wanted anything else. Not in an annoying way. It was genuine and caring!

Why do I share this with you?

I share this because we should always think about how we are showing up. How are we showing up at work and treat our co-workers? How are we showing up at work and treat our customers?

I have had exceptionally good experiences on airlines and bad experiences on the same carriers.

We are human, have things going on in our personal life that may affect how we react at times.

However, we also have default tendencies! What is our default attitude? What is our default communication style and behavior?

I have no idea whether the first flight attendant was showing up with her default behavior towards me when she dismissed me, or if something else was going on in her life. I also do not know whether that airline has “How to communicate with and treat customers, so that they feel cared for” included in their training.


When you are hiring your employees, what are you looking for besides their professional skills and background?

Our customer’s satisfaction is our number one priority. That is what many companies say. Do all the employees feel that way? Do they have the proper skills? Is their default behavior, how they show up at work, communicate with clients and how they treat them aligned with what you want your company to portray?


Here are 3 simple steps how this could have been managed differently:

  1. Take full responsibility of the situation without personal blame. “I am sorry you found your seat this way.”
  2. Be solution oriented and determine how it can be resolved and what needs to be done. In this case, the seating area needed to be cleaned.
  3. Take action. Either you take action right away yourself, or you get someone else to handle it. “Let me take care of this for you right away” or “I am in the middle of helping someone else, let me find someone who can help you right away.”
    When you delegate the task, make sure to follow up. Either with the client or with the person you delegated the task to. Too many times, things get forgotten and fall through the cracks. That is part of taking full responsibility!


Addressing situations this way is not limited to just managing customer service situations.

The same applies for addressing issues within your company as well.

Ask yourself, “In what areas can I and my employees improve on how we are showing up?”

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