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Halfnut
10th May 2006, 03:06
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/08/AR2006050801330.html

United Pilots Get Personal

By: Keith L. Alexander

Tuesday, May 9, 2006; D01

That impersonal voice from the cockpit -- "This is the captain speaking" -- is getting friendlier at United Airlines.

Pilots at the carrier are stepping up a campaign of friendliness in a bid to win customers' hearts -- and loyalty.

Under the program, you'll be more likely to see an actual pilot at the gate to explain to you why your flight is delayed. While airborne, frequent fliers may find a flight attendant pressing a note from the pilot into their hands: a personal thank-you for being aboard. And kids traveling alone will in some cases be offered a chance to call home while in flight, using a pilot's credit card.

United's pilots hope the initiative will boost passengers' satisfaction with the airline.

"We're the CEO's direct ambassador," said Bud Potts, United's first officer and flight operations supervisor. "Some folks want to get that eye contact. It's like when you go into a store and the clerk doesn't make eye contact with you. You may not feel like you want to be there."

The pilots also are hoping to win some affection for themselves. Their warmer touch could translate into a bigger bonus. United awards bonuses based on passenger surveys conducted each quarter by an outside research firm. The size of the pilots' bonuses depends on how much they surpass the airline's internal goals for customer satisfaction.

Potts and Denny Flanagan, a United 757 and 767 captain, are leading efforts to motivate the carrier's 6,400 pilots to be more of a presence for customers.

Flanagan says he has flight attendants pass out cards to all passengers in first class, and he includes his e-mail address. He says he receives about six to 10 responses a week from passengers who he says appreciate the gesture. "The majority of people really don't want to fly. They should have a good travel experience when they're on the airplane. So we try to treat each customer as if it was the first time they've ever flown," Flanagan said.

But some passengers have long memories and may be less receptive. It's been six years since United's pilots outraged travelers by refusing to work overtime during bitter contract disputes in the midst of the busy summer travel season. United was forced to cancel 25,000 flights.

Rockville management consultant Evan Leepson said he received a card from the captain on his April 26 flight from Reagan National to Chicago. The card read: "Mr. Leepson, we appreciate your business. . . . Thank you for flying United."

The card wasn't terribly personal. Instead of a phone number or e-mail address, it had a post office box at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

Leepson said he thought the gesture was "nice" but was basically a waste of time. "I think it's stupid. It's peripheral to the real issues such as getting me to my destination safely and on time," he said. "Those are the satisfiers, not handing me a business card."

United pilots also pass out trading cards with a picture of the aircraft and facts about it, such as the name, size and other details. At the bottom of the card is a note to travelers thanking them for flying the airline. As with the business cards, United's pilots pass out the cards to only United's top frequent fliers. The airline reimburses the pilots for printing their cards.

For the past 20 years or so, about 10 percent of United's pilots handed out the business cards to passengers. During layovers, most pilots would review the passenger manifest and identify which passengers were top frequent fliers. The pilot would then write a personal note thanking them for flying the carrier. The current campaign hopes to broaden card-giving by pilots.

It also aims to reach a bit into the pilots' wallets. To place phone calls for unaccompanied children on board, the pilots give their personal credit card to a flight attendant who swipes the card in the in-flight phone. The pilots receive a discount for use of Verizon air phones but are not reimbursed by United for the calls. Flight attendants police the calls to make sure the kids don't stay on too long. "You don't want them talking too much about what they had for lunch on the flight," Potts said.

Mary M. Duffy, a Menlo Park, Calif., food service consultant and frequent flier, said she could "care less" about interacting with pilots. "I just want to make sure the pilots are in their seats, sober and ready to fly. I don't need to know if he or she has a warm personality."

At a time when passengers are paying higher fares and have more fees for curbside luggage check-in, meals and other amenities, Arlington consultant Jeff De Cagna said business cards and other gestures won't be met with "anything but cynicism by most people."

But some passengers said they would appreciate such contact, especially those who are nervous about flying or who want to learn more about the flight.

Frequent flier Steve McDuffie of Richland, Wash., said he likes being able to get a sense of the personality behind the person operating the plane. "Normally, it makes a passenger more at ease."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Airbubba
10th May 2006, 05:09
Yep, looks like those boys got a little "attitude adjustment" after all they did to chase business away in 2000...

ShortfinalFred
10th May 2006, 05:43
Yo, Bubba! You Tennessee boys sure are smug, aintcha?

Airbubba
10th May 2006, 06:52
Well, as the article says:

"...But some passengers have long memories and may be less receptive. It's been six years since United's pilots outraged travelers by refusing to work overtime during bitter contract disputes in the midst of the busy summer travel season. United was forced to cancel 25,000 flights."

I was one of those passengers, I haven't bought a United ticket since then.

captjns
10th May 2006, 12:27
Crew/customer interaction comes with the fourth stripe. This is a practice that should be customary, and not suggested, nor is it a novel idea.

When a flight is delayed I talk to the passengers at the boarding gate. Honest information... thatís all the passengers want... is honest information. Will the passengers be happy when they get to their destination? Letís say theyíre not as unhappy because I keep the passengers informed of the situation. Also I as the skipper owe it to my back end crew too. Flight attendants don't need the abuse from any dissatisfied customers. This solidifies the team concept of all crewmembers on the jet alike.

And guess what.... I've been doing this for almost 30 years and I'm not with UAL!

Good thing UAL does not have the copywrites on customer relations... or we could be sued under the copywrite lawshttp://forums.airlinepilotcentral.com/images/smilies/biggrin.gif

Air-Geko
10th May 2006, 15:26
Crew/customer interaction comes with the fourth stripe.

Then why doesn't the flight deck care that every announcement they make comes across as garbled gibberish to the pax in back? Have they bothered to ask the CC if they can be understood? As an audio engineer I would hope my ears are indeed perceptive, but well over half of the time I wind up with something like: "welcome aboard flight ausghfo, I'm caiusdgfa, adhfouadfaf nb fhufs bvfo oshvb sdmkvsafjnvcv.asmvnlvmnc." My god man, remove the microphone from the back of your throat and speak clearly. It can't be that much noiser in the cockpit than it is in the cabin...

chuks
10th May 2006, 15:28
The Company expects the Captain to hand over his credit card so that some little no-neck monster can call home? What planet are these people on? If this is such a hot idea why shouldn't they have a Company phone card available? Some little weasel will get the Tokyo Speaking Clock on the line, sure as eggs is eggs.

captjns
10th May 2006, 16:16
My god man, remove the microphone from the back of your throat and speak clearly.

The PA systems on newer aircraft are far superior to those of the older generation aircraft. I fly quite often as both pilot and passenger and have no problems hearing the captain or crew when making announcements. The PA is not a piece of equipment for your enterntainment. Its primarily for your safety. If a PA system is scratchty or distorted, it is report to mx for immediate repair.

Perhaps you have your sound system turned up to high. After all, to many dbs can harmful to your hearing.

captjns
10th May 2006, 16:18
The Company expects the Captain to hand over his credit card so that some little no-neck monster can call home?

That part of the story has not been confirmed by any UAL crewmembers yet. Therefore that part can be discounted until we hear the true poop.

mr Q
10th May 2006, 16:19
If your name was Bud Potts would you not prefer to call yourself "First Officer' on the PA system...???
Apologies if this does not amount to a "constructive" posting.........

Air-Geko
10th May 2006, 16:34
Thanks for the warning to/for all to wear appropriate hearing protection in noisy environments. As an engineer who specializes in recordings of classical music, I'm not too worried about "too many decibels" out of a typical chamber ensemble. :) As a side note, I was recently asked my my local municipality to take sound pressure measurements regarding the outdoor paging system at a local car dealer's lot. It seems the neighbors had been complaining about the disruptive volume of the pages being made. I arrived and took my measurements on a calibrated and certified machine. I turned my findings in to city hall, and had revealed that one of the neighbor's lawn mowers two yards away was far louder than any of the pages being made!

Edited to add, I've never had a problem understanding the CC making their safety announcements, but announcements from the flight deck have definately been hit-or-miss.

weasil
10th May 2006, 23:14
Some little weasel will get the Tokyo Speaking Clock on the line, sure as eggs is eggs.

How do you know I did that? Who have you been talking to!

Ignition Override
11th May 2006, 05:31
About PAs which are difficult to understand.

It is rare that cabin crew tell us that they are not clear, but we don't know whether they are too busy to listen, or whether they are up in the galley during the PAs, where there is always more wind noise.

Centaurus
11th May 2006, 14:44
The PA is not a piece of equipment for your enterntainment. Its primarily for your safety. If a PA system is scratchty or distorted, it is report to mx for immediate repair

I'll tell you what - there is one airline in Australia that encourages its FA to "entertain" its "guests" by acting as in-flight comedians from the time the engines are started until close down. Example from male FA "Our beautiful girls welcome you aboard and I am pretty, too." or There is a whistle on your lifejacket which you can blow to attract passing sailors."
Or "Flight attendants please take your seats for landing and hold hands."
And this crap is officially sanctioned....

Air-Geko
11th May 2006, 16:16
Ahh Centaurus, it sounds like you've got the Aussie version of America's Southwest airlines. That sort of stuff is par for the course... I've only been on two SW flights but I remember one speech reminding us that "In the event of a water landing our seat cushions could be used as a floatation device. Simply kick - paddle, kick - paddle all the way to dry land. And upon reaching dry land, feel free to keep your seat cushion as a souvenier courtesy of Southwest."

Huck
11th May 2006, 17:13
[T]here is one airline in Australia that encourages its FA to "entertain" its "guests" [....]

Also tried by "Song," the Delta low cost splinter.

Referred to their F/A's as "talent." It was macabre, requiring humorous chatter after all those years of culling the personality out of the ranks.

At the launch party the VP in charge led an "impromptu" conga line to show just how fun they all were. Like watching Baptists at an open bar, it was....

Con-Trail
11th May 2006, 21:09
How do you know I did that? Who have you been talking to!
Probably weasel junior :}

captjns
11th May 2006, 22:25
"Flight attendants please take your seats for landing and hold hands."
And this crap is officially sanctioned....

All safety briefings are conducted by flight attendnats with the utmost professionalism from before engine start to door slides being crossed check. What goes on in between is fair game. Most passengers do enjoy the light entertainment. Soutwest Airlines, a major US carrier provides the same type of program too. Good morale for the passengers. True there are some passengers such as yourself prefer the standard flight attendant briefings without the frills.

CargoOne
11th May 2006, 23:50
Hello, this is your Capting speaking.
Just enjoy your meals and relax and meanwhile I will tell you a funny story happend to us last week when we lost one engine just after V1 on a takeoff from Quito, Ecuador...........

Ranger One
12th May 2006, 03:09
Hello, this is your Capting speaking.
Just enjoy your meals and relax and meanwhile I will tell you a funny story happend to us last week when we lost one engine just after V1 on a takeoff from Quito, Ecuador...........

Quito?! That's what I call over-egging the pudding...

R1

Centaurus
12th May 2006, 11:58
All safety briefings are conducted by flight attendnats with the utmost professionalism from before engine start to door slides being crossed check. What goes on in between is fair game. Most passengers do enjoy the light entertainment.

Captjns. You generalise a bit too much old chap. "most passengers" enjoy the light entertainment. Have you conducted a measured survey of who enjoys that peurile crap or otherwise? Are "all safety briefings" conducted....with utmost professionalism?

To be fair I have only flown with the subject airline in Australia on about eight occasions but every one of those sectors we were subject to blatant sexist banter by a gender bending FA who had a captive audience to play to.

The safety briefings were not serious - they were "fun." On one occasion as we lined up for take off and power was increased on the roll the FA grabbed his microphone and shouted "WHooooooosh - here we go ladies and gentleman boys and girls, we are going like a rocket so all hold hands now"...

And I forgot to say that three of the PA's on separate flights had the FA telling the passengers we were taxiing for a destination other than the correct one - this certainly caused startled looks among the more mature pax.

If this is an example of how these "professional" idiots behave I shudder to think how they would react in a real emergency. Some passengers would treat it as a joke until maybe too late...

Charles Darwin
12th May 2006, 23:36
And kids traveling alone will in some cases be offered a chance to call home while in flight, using a pilot's credit card.

Why not have the chance to use his card at the airport, before the flight, to buy a bigger bag of peanuts! :rolleyes:

captjns
13th May 2006, 01:58
If this is an example of how these "professional" idiots behave I shudder to think how they would react in a real emergency. Some passengers would treat it as a joke until maybe too late...

I don't thinkg so. If bang is heard... a shudder is felt. The silence in the cabin will be deafening.

One can't really predict how individuals will react to an emergency situation. I would like to say that all crewmembers would act in a professional caring manner.

clicker
14th May 2006, 06:47
The Company expects the Captain to hand over his credit card so that some little no-neck monster can call home? What planet are these people on? If this is such a hot idea why shouldn't they have a Company phone card available? Some little weasel will get the Tokyo Speaking Clock on the line, sure as eggs is eggs.

How long before one of the little bu@@ers clones the card!

EI-CFC
14th May 2006, 14:44
Have you conducted a measured survey of who enjoys that peurile crap or otherwise?

Have you done one to say people don't? It seems to work for the airlines that do it..and once it doesn't interfere with proper procedure, I don't see anything wrong with it.

Flying Microphone
16th May 2006, 11:08
From a purely personal pax point of view...

Well said EI-CFC...

I've been on many a flight including Crab Air (RAF) long haul to the south Atlantic a few times and whenever a member of the flight or cabin crew have a bit of fun with the anno's, two things happen...
1) the pax actually listen for a change
2) most appear (sorry if that's not a scientific enough measurement) to enjoy the anno's. Sure, there are always a few lemon-sucking "suits" who look as if they'd sooner have their teeth pulled, but the vast majority laugh along and if that helps with nerves, then that has to be a good thing???

I guess it comes down to crew confidence. If you've got it... make the most and share a bit of fun. If you're not confident on the mic, don't bother. It shouldn't be compulsary!

Safe flying!

Centaurus
16th May 2006, 14:34
Flying Microphone.
but the vast majority laugh along and if that helps with nerves, then that has to be a good thing???

My guess it would be described best as nervous titters - rather than a full belly laugh....

Flying Microphone
16th May 2006, 15:09
Flying Microphone.
My guess it would be described best as nervous titters - rather than a full belly laugh....

In many cases Centaurus, youíre probably right, but hey, as I said... at least they're listening!

I still feel the bottom line is, no flight or cabin crew should be compelled to be funny (nothing worse than standing next to the bloke in the bar who thinks he's funny but really isn't), but if you can get away with it and the time is right... why not?

Virgin Boi
17th May 2006, 01:07
Centaurus,

Its called "Virgin Flair" - and its the reason that cabin crew from the Virgin group are world renowned for offering excellent customer service. Lighten up.

banana head
17th May 2006, 01:45
It's just like being in Butlins.... they even wear 'redcoats':E

Jox
17th May 2006, 16:43
Now far be it from me to stick in my tuppence worth but I remember the laugh from all down the cabins when it was announced on VS some years ago that " there may be fifty ways to leave you lover but there are only twelve ways of leaving this aircraft and they are being pointed out to you now."

The degree of attention paid by all was far more significant than normal as everyone waited for the next funny.

Personally, I feel that it demonstrates individualism and customer service as everybody on board was more attentive than those who are compelled to give it off the card or just push the button for the briefing on the screen.

:D

XSBaggage
17th May 2006, 19:25
It is a very sensitive area. Personally from what I have heard, Southwest crew get it right most of the time. This behaviour is "encouraged", but is not "trained" into them, and if someone is too shy to make humorous announcements it will not affect their career. Others I could mention (a certain (in)famous Irish low fares carrier for example) have been known to discipline and/or demote anyone trying to inject a bit of humour or interest into the flight.

I think you need to know how to interact with the public and have the confidence to do so. The "whoosh here we go" guy is going to far in my opinion, and just sounds annoying. Another thing that is not good to hear is positioning crew talking to the cabin crew about confidential company matters and the like. On domestic UK sectors I have learned a lot about the internal politics and news from bmi and FlyBe just by listening to overly loud positioning crew chatting with their colleagues who are on duty. And recently Mummy Baggage told me that the positioning crew member disembarking in front of her on a BA flight was in hysterics with the on duty crew about a recent slow decompression that "nobody noticed". Again, you got to get the level of professionalism right.

Jox
17th May 2006, 23:16
XS

I agree that inappropriate behaviour and comments by positioning crew are a trait of those who do not deem themselves professional enough to represent their company and it is extremely regretful that they cannot behave as the majority do, but this industry and certain companies promote individuals and provide sufficient space for them to achieve both the best for themselves and those who they look after.

I myself have flown with people at the sharp end who I have been glad that I work out of the view of the general public as I have had to laugh at the pre pushback statement by the man in command.

It is not, in my opinion, unprofessional but enhances everything that CRM has ever taught anyone that we can act professionally and deal with things with a degree of humour in the right places whilst allowing our differences room to develop. There is more than just the letters M and E in team !
:ok:

captjns
18th May 2006, 00:01
There is more than just the letters M and E in team !
:ok:

The adage is there is no "I" in team work. with regard to the departure safety demonstraion, more carriers are going to the tape recording in conjunction with the flight attendant mime technique. This leave less opportunity for improvisation by crewmembers.

E&H
18th May 2006, 03:31
Shades of Fate is the Hunter, where Ernest tries to keep the airline afloat and by mixing with the pax. It didn't work. Wish them all the best.

Bangkokeasy
18th May 2006, 04:27
AS SLF, I really appreciate a little variety and yes, genuine personal touches from airline staff, pilots or otherwise. However, in the US, there is an awful lot of that "have a nice day" rubbish. If UAL's initiative is going to degenerate into that, then it is pretty easy to spot and a waste of time. "Thank you for flying xxx airlines - we really value your business and hope you fly with us again", read at the speed of light in a grey monotone is painful and they really would be better off just saying "thank you and goodbye".

As for arguments about levity, you have to admit routine safety announcements are extremely dull. Basically, you have two ways of getting their attention - amuse them or frighten them. Whilst I do not condone the "whoosh here we go" sort of announcement, which is neither informative, or particularly amusing, I know which I would prefer!

Centaurus
18th May 2006, 13:14
Centaurus here taking someone's age advice to lighten up. OK -this is how I see it. When you observe a TV news announcer giving news of a tragedy he does not attempt to inject humour into a serious situation. He would quickly be sacked if he did. Watch a professional actor give a video recorded cabin safety announcement on the screen. Does he crack jokes? No way. Does the cabin crew of a VIP executive Global Express advise the CEO and his entourage to hold hands as they land? It's back to McDonalds serving fries if that happened..

Despite years of trolley dolly jokes we are told the reason for flight attendants in an airliner is not just to look pretty and serve coffee. The FA themselves will tell you they are there for government regulated safety reasons; and that is to get passengers out of a burning aircraft with minimum loss of life.

So why not dispense with contrived "humour" - remembering the jokes are repeated several times a day as each load of passengers arrive on board - and treat cabin safety briefings with the gravity they deserve.

Remember that wonderful movie called Flying High? The hilarious scene where the FA shoves a passenger down the slide with a gay "have a nice day." In some airlines I wouldn't be at all surprised if that was SOP!

Leave slap stick humour to professional comedians where it belongs.

Flying Microphone
18th May 2006, 13:55
So why not dispense with contrived "humour" - remembering the jokes are repeated several times a day as each load of passengers arrive on board - and treat cabin safety briefings with the gravity they deserve.


Equates (in the mind of most air travellers) to "Is that monotoned droid still going on? I wish he'd shut up... I'm trying to read the paper"

I'm not necessarily condoning that attitude, but there it is. "Yeah, yeah, mask like these will descend... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz".:=

If you think about it Centaurus, your argument actually supports livening up the safety announcements and actually making people listen.

If somebody who flies alot actually does put their paper down and listen to the brief, then, surely, the flight attendants primary role of safety has been better fulfilled???

XSBaggage
19th May 2006, 01:42
Best I ever heard for getting the mix right was an EZY Cabin Supervisor (or whatever term they use there) who announced the crew's names, told everyone that the briefing was for their safety, gave her colleagues a minute to talk to everyone reading a paper and get them to close it, then continued. She was serious about the actual briefing, but added bits of humour around it. Just enough to make us and the "paper sniffers" listen. The arrival announcement was similar, the announcement about collecting all personal items included "....as any money or items of duty free will be kept by the crew. Please ensure you remember to take all husbands and small children as the crew already have enough there."

Perfect blend if you ask me. But again needs a blend of confidence and professionalism. No matter what you think of the announcments I think cabin crew are perfectly entitled to approach pax individually to get the newspapers put down.

Have noticed on airlines such as FR / EZY with lots of "selling" announcements SLF tend to switch off to the important ones.

XSB

Rwy in Sight
19th May 2006, 07:26
A humorous note once in a while it is fine and very efficient at attracting attention. However it is counter productive and completely boring if it is imposed by the regulations. I guess that once humorous expressions become standard they will be as boring as the briefing currently given.

On the other hand I like the idea that appreared on onther thread about a small quiz of the pax before take off.

Rwy in Sight

Consol
19th May 2006, 22:17
If this is an example of how these "professional" idiots behave I shudder to think how they would react in a real emergency. Some passengers would treat it as a joke until maybe too late...

Indeed, lighten up Centaurus, a sense of humour does not mean crews will be unable to cope with emergencies, get real.
Problem is today everybody is chronically offended by everything so someone will complain sooner or later.
I was on an Air Canada flight YYZ to LHR about ten days after September 11th. Most of the passengers (many from the US) were understandably uptight and nervous getting on the flight. The cabin manager injected some well timed humour into the p.a. s, told us Heathrow was-20c and snowing and if we didn't listen to the safety there would be no bar. Spirits on the flight went way up and the atmosphere was alot better. (Sure the AC guys know who I mean, a genuinely funny fellow). Point is, he did a great job.
Took a QF flight trans Oz, three camp stewards doing tea/coffee, last guy with the milk announces "I'm the dairy fairy!" Point was, it made me laugh.
Flying is dreary and miserable enough now, don't leave out some humour.

ps, the original tread thing about UL, get a life Bud, Mitch, Brad and all you others. Its a gimmick. Only in America.

Golf Charlie Charlie
19th May 2006, 22:28
I was on a recent BA JFK/LHR flight and - predictably - we whizzed around the OCK hold for 20 minutes. At one point the captain drily said the good news was that we had found London, but the bad news was that a lot of other aeroplanes had done so as well, and thus we would be going round in circles. On being given approach clearance, he announced that fact by saying "I've had enough of this for now, so we're going in to land...".