Tags: Customer Service, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Pillow Fight, Steven Slater, Viral Video
Flight attendants are very much in the news these days.
This year belongs to Steven Slater, a JetBlue flight attendant who after an altercation with a passenger on an aircraft that had just landed at New York’s JFK International Airport, announced via the in-flight intercom that he was quitting his job and hurled profanities at the passenger who provoked him. He then grabbed a beer, activated the aircraft’s emergency chute and bolted off the plane.
While many are hailing Mr. Slater as a ‘working-class hero’ for standing up against an unruly customer & walking away from an ‘unpleasant’ situation, his otherwise social media-open and transparent former employer is forced to remain silent as this matter is under investigation. Mr. Slater looks certain to benefit from his newfound fame as an ‘air rager’ and there are calls for JetBlue to take him back to the skies. Personally, I believe he shouldn’t be allowed to do so.
Being a flight attendant is a tough and demanding job that requires immaculate stress management and people handling skills beyond the veneer of a smiling and glamorous exterior. Needless to say, cabin crew are the human face of the airline to the flying public. How they conduct themselves plus how they treat passengers in the skies and on the ground reflects the general service attitude of the airline to the world. 20 odd years into the job, it doesn’t bode well for me to have Mr. Slater on my flight losing his top and bolting off the aircraft like a renegade general.
Cut to the story of this inspiring Lufthansa flight attendant who is now the star of an emerging YouTube viral video titled ‘LH 687 – The endless dispute between the French and the Germans’.
A hilarious pillow flight broke out recently on a Lufthansa flight bound to Frankfurt from Tel Aviv. A German cabin crew was handing out complimentary pillows to Economy Class passengers when pillows were thrown back at her. Not one to be cowed down, she joined in the fun and threw back pillows at the passengers (a group of French tourists). In the 42-second clip, the stewardess can be seen dashing for the safety of her curtain as the hail of pillows intensifies. A passenger recorded a video of this funny pillow fight that ended with rounds of applause for the flight attendant for being a sport. The video is becoming a hit and there is overall appreciation for the flight attendant and the fliers for bringing some light-heartedness into flying.
A Lufthansa spokeswoman later said that the airline is laughing along with everyone else. “It’s an example of passengers enjoying themselves in economy class. And it shows we still offer pillows to our passengers in economy class,” she said.
The lesson to be learnt from this experience is simple. Mass brands such as airlines that come in close contact with human situations that are odd, impromptu, unpredictable or challenging need to be spontaneous, creative, positive, calm and responsive in a professional manner, on the go.
In today’s age of social media, judgments and opinions are formed and shared before corporations or brands can react. Hence, forget about controlling the message. Note the positive spin Lufthansa is giving to the whole incident. Kudos to them for this smart marketing plug in and not going for the staid and natural corporate measure of punishing the flight attendant. Today’s ‘age of social’ demands that we remain constantly on our guard displaying our best social behavior, no matter what the situation. Mr. Steven Slater and his kind can certainly learn a lot from this pillow fight onboard Lufthansa 687.