Appearing on YouTube does not make every ugly customer relations encounter a crisis, even if it is on an airplane. The customer is not always right and often times do escalate conflict with those in customer service. We should remember that customer service is a difficult job requiring emotional labor and dealing with some unpleasant people. However, every effort should be made to de-escalate the conflict. Delta had another example of an escalating conflict on a red eye flight. A family had an older child take an earlier flight. The father then argued that he still had the seat and placed his two-year’s car seat in the seat instead of being a lap child. The man did not own the seat. The seat he paid for left on an earlier flight. Delta had every right to then use that seat for a standby passenger. It should be noted this was not an overbooking situation. The passenger refused to comply with the Delta person’s request to give up the seat. Eventually the man did but Delta decided it was too late and he had pushed the situation too far. That is where a judgment call comes into play and their is room for interpretation and picking sides. The Delta employee supposedly said the person risked committing a federal crime and losing his children due to that. The part about the child was over top and kept the conflict escalating. But it is federal offense to not comply with crew member instructions however legal needs to determine what is covered in this situation. The point is that the passenger instigated the situation that lead to the family being asked to leave the plane. Their seats were then taken by standby passengers, not an overbooking situation. Here is Delta’s statement:
Delta Air Lines issued the following statement today regarding Flight 2222 on April 23:
“We are sorry for the unfortunate experience our customers had with Delta, and we’ve reached out to them to refund their travel and provide additional compensation. Delta’s goal is to always work with customers in an attempt to find solutions to their travel issues. That did not happen in this case and we apologize.”
One practitioner site has been highly critical of Delta’s apology saying it shows far too little compassion. And wrongly likened the situation to United and claimed it was another case of overbooking. Neither point is accurate. The question is how much compassion should you show for someone who started the problem and actively sought to escalate the situation even though the person’s fundamental point was wrong? Airline employees have jobs to do that affect the lives of a lot of travelers. They need to have some power to deal with people who are unruly and uncooperative. The practitioner site state: “These are crisis lessons airlines needs to learn quickly because it is apparent passengers will be pulling out their mobile phone every time they feel they have been wronged.” Does that mean any organization engaging in customer service must accepted inappropriate behavior simply because people have phones on their cameras? I would hope not. Delta will take some heat because of the lingering outrage over the United crisis (yes that was really a crisis) but it should pass quickly. The situation has more to do with language choice (threat to lose children) than the actions. There are times passengers are uncooperative and airlines need to remove them from a flight to do their jobs effectively and to even make a point. Time will tell if this case meets those criteria. The media and others are quick to talk about a passenger’s bill of rights. But what about passenger responsibilities? Passengers in the wrong delay flights and can jeopardize the safety of other passengers. There are times the airline personnel need to exercise their power, whether or not that are phones around and people think the policy is wrong. It seems each side went a little too far in this case with their words. However, passengers should now they can be removed from plane if they are a problem and cell phones will not be a reason to reward such bad behavior and inflated sense of entitlement.
Questions to Consider
- Should you have to change how you perform your job if people decided to record and place your actions online for the comments of others?