Passenger Etiquette: Ways to React When Your Flight Doesn't Go as Planned

We recently gave you tips on how to deal with a rude seat mate, but what about dealing with flight attendants?

How to React When Your Flight Doesn't Go as Planned

Recent stories in the news have put customer service on United in the hot seat. Here’s what you can do if you find yourself in a sticky situation on a plane or at the airport.

Get angry. Just be ready to go viral. There are plenty of reasons to get angry when flying, whether you are asked to move seats, or your flight is canceled and you are told there are no flights out until the next day. Since most people on the plane or at an airport are likely to pull out their phone or tablet and start taping your altercation, it’s highly likely you may make it on to YouTube. It will also most likely get you a public apology from the airline, as they scramble with their PR division trying to right the wrong. However, it is also unlikely that a full blown temper tantrum will get you what you want, so unless your goal is to go viral for a day or two, it’s probably not worth it.

Do nothing. I once was on a flight and the elderly woman next to me was snoozing, when she suddenly jerked her head up, opened her eyes, bulging them, stiffened every part of her body, and passed out.  Before she came to I thought “oh my god, she’s dead. We are going to have to do an emergency landing.” I quickly calculated that we were probably somewhere over the Dakotas, and wondered where the nearest airport was. Luckily, after a minute or so of me and her friend trying to rouse her, and yelling for a doctor, she came to, and nearly immediately vomited, causing me to jump out of my seat, dive over her and her friend, into the aisle. There was a doctor sitting directly behind us, who quickly came to her aid. I stood in the aisle, and the flight attendant asked if it would be okay if the doctor took my seat for the remainder of the flight. I said that was fine. Of course, he had a middle seat, and the person in the window seat was a very chatty woman from North Carolina on her way to finally meet a man she had been talking to online, which I heard all about for the rest of the flight. At the end of the flight, the flight attendant came up to the doctor with a voucher for his assistance. I waited, assuming she would come to me next. She didn’t. I considered asking for one, but decided against it. I could have gotten angry, I could have demanded some sort of voucher for my good Samaritan service, but instead, I exited the plane, and had a story to tell. So, if you find yourself in a similar situation, you can certainly try to get something out of it, or just smile and be on your way. At least you didn’t pass out on your flight.

Cry. Yep. Turn on the old waterworks. This typically is my reaction, because whenever I am feeling any strong sense of emotion of any kind (anger, sadness, happiness), I cry. So chances are, if my flight is overbooked or canceled, I will be crying. This could backfire, of course, if the flight attendant/customer service person you are dealing with has zero empathy, but it could also work in your favor if you get the right person, they could take pity on you and give you an upgrade.

Remain calm, smile, and ask for an explanation. This is probably the best thing to do. I worked in customer service for many years, and it was the people who were pleasant while complaining that I would do everything in my power to help. I know it is tough to do when you are just trying to get to the pool at your resort, or to your best friends rehearsal dinner, but it’s most likely going to get you the best results, even if they aren’t the exact results you are looking for.

While you're at it, compliment the flight attendant. Let them know you know they have a tough job. Before going into your explanation as to why it is so important for you to get on the flight, say something like “yikes, I’m glad I don’t have your job.” This small expression of sympathy might just make the flight attendant work a little harder at giving you what you want. Camaraderie goes a long way.

While none of these options guarantee an optimal outcome, at least you know you have options, and several of them won’t land you on YouTube. And, you never know, you could end up with a $10,000 voucher if you play your cards right.

Top image by Air Images/Shutterstock

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