Female Flight Attendant Assault: When Customer Service Delivery Hurts

Female Flight Attendant AbusedA female flight attendant (cabin crew) reaching into an overhead locker, to assist an elderly passenger in retrieving a luggage during the usual haste of passengers to ‘squeeze through’ the aisle after a scheduled flight, felt a hand ‘grab’ her …(backside). She felt so abused, defiled and humiliated, that she collapsed into an empty seat nearby, semi-consciously. On regaining full consciousness shortly after, she could faintly recall that the culprit was a white male passenger, in blue jacket. This was well after almost all the passengers had disembarked into the night, to the arrival lounge. There have been several noted incidents of male passengers making undue flirtatious gestures towards female workers, on board airline flights.

Question: I am the flight attendant being referred to in this story. In the name of effective customer service delivery, which the airline I work for harps on frequently, what should be done about such unwholesome acts of customers? – R.O.

Without going into components of Emotional Labour (an aspect of corporate resource) epitomized by women employed to make use of their ‘natural’ skills (např. women likely being more charming and caring than men, just like in domestic spheres), one need not over flog reasons why flight attendants or cabin crew in virtually all airlines comprise mainly of females. Nature has made it such that customer service delivery for in-flight direct attention to passengers is seen to be better facilitated by pleasant-looking, well-composed, and caring women.

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It is not out of place for passenger airlines to emphasize effective customer service delivery, as the bulk of revenue is derived from the passengers. Poor customer service and mismanagement could mean transfer of patronage to another airline (competitor), hence valued and high-revenue business travellers are not toyed with. Customer service is comprised of those series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – The feeling by the passenger that a service has met his/her expectation. It also applies to handling all customers’ questions and related requisitions, then treating them properly to their satisfaction. Customers’ perceptions of any airline’s flight are overwhelmingly moulded by their physical dealings with the airline’s staff.

Effective customer service delivery should not hurt and be sacrificed on the altar of abuse, defilement, humiliation and sexual harassment of the female gender at the front-line of service rendition. This is why adherence to my suggestions below will help check excesses of unwholesome passengers, while the airline’s virtues in customer service remain.

You should upgrade the level of your personal preparedness, henceforth. In the name of adherence to effective customer service, endeavour to be professional – Exhibit intrinsic worth like courtesy, tolerance, enthusiasm, confidence, positive attitude, humility, and good manners. The iconic “Singapore Girls”, tag given to flight attendants of the well acclaimed Singapore Airlines, in their distinctiveSarong Kebayadress, are known to posses great charm, but ‘stare at the ceiling’ when they have had enough of passengers (especially males) who try to be ‘too personal’. There is a saying that, “one tends to be on guard when a hand-shake extends to the elbow”.

There is a reported incident of a businessman, after ‘dousing himself’ with in-flight alcoholic beverage, spent his entire flight trying to get a flight attendant’s phone number. He kept asking where she was spending the night and her base. Always be on your guard and prepared to check excesses which may stem from inevitable sexual advances. If you had been vigilant sufficiently to have nabbed this passenger in the act, and not swooning into semi-consciousness, he may have ended up with a charge of indecent assault slammed on him. Customer service delivery would not have been smeared as a result.

On a more personal level, going by the usual “boy meets girl scenario”, if a hopeful single female flight attendant sees this as an ample opportunity to date eligible bachelors, such “date in the sky” is not out of place so long as the lady’s job responsibilities (while on board) are not compromised.

Také, there should be formalised team alertness aimed at effecting checks on earring passengers, through subtle arrangements whereby members of the team on duty look out for one another, as may be co-ordinated by the lead flight attendant. This will obviously provide for an immediate support from a colleague, and more especially afford available witness easily in case of prosecution afterwards. In your encounter, it would have amounted to your word against the passenger’s even if you had apprehended him.

It was reported not long ago, that the vigilance of such a team on board a Virgin Atlantic flight from South Africa to Heathrow (London) saved the day, in an attempt by a drunken 25 year old female passenger to sexually harass a male flight attendant. As acclaimed in court later, this woman assaulted the crew member by grabbing his crotch and demanded sex after drinking a pint of whisky in the aircraft.

Lastly, there must be an airline’s policy to check such occurrences, as staff protection measures, especially these days that related happenings seem to be on the increase. Where airlines fall short in this regard, staff unions could bridge the gap. If airlines must serve alcohol on board, it should be restricted to only a part where passengers are not likely to exhibit preference for groping (např. first class section).

“Skyscanner”, a travel booking site, has it that about 45 percent of airline passengers admit to flirting while in the air; ‘had a rendezvous after the flight,’ with eight percent resulting in a relationship. Even where the focus here is not about what occurs between consenting adults and what may lead to such; airline managements should not over look vital factors which boost incidence of customers’ misdemeanor. An example is management’s reprimands of some female cabin crew wearing super-high stilettos and skirts hemmed so short – Likely to ‘distract’ male passengers. Customer service delivery must remain as defined above and should not entice stimulated passengers to make a ‘grab’.

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