23/10/2008 – Airport Etiquette : Gate Agents Are Not There For Your Verbal Abuse
As flyers we’d like the airlines we fly, and those representing them, to see our point of view every time. There have been times when I have arrived at the airport to late to be allowed to check in. I can try and sweet talk my way into a boarding pass, but when I am told “NO!” I simply ask to be placed on stand-by for the next flight.
When this has happened to me I have never stamped my foot. I have never shouted. I have never stormed off. I have certainly never shouted ‘do you know how often I fly your airline?’ Why not? Well for starters, I accept that missing the cut off time is either due to a missed connection and out of my control or on rare occasions its simply my fault. Secondly, airport counter agents and gate agents are people too!
I can’t count the number of times I have watched a flyer shoot off the handle at an airline representative. There are times when an agent can be indifferent. There are some airlines that seem to employ more than their fair share of agents who just don’t care. Overall, however, I find the majority of airline representatives at airports are helpful if given the chance.
Your flight is delayed and you’ll miss the connection…it is not the fault of the airline ground staff in Denver (DEN) that the flight from San Diego (SAN) was delayed. You can express your frustration, but then also politely ask they try and reroute you before your departure. This makes everything easier for you as the traveler. As a bonus, you’ll be one less person the airline representative goes home grumbling about.
Weather has you grounded in Chicago (ORD)? Do you think yelling at an airline representative will cause the airport to open up again just because you think that ‘its not that windy out?’ Weather delays happen, It is a fact of travel. Airlines don’t like being grounded either. Not only does a weather delay or closure force airline representatives to deal with angry passengers, but airlines only make money when their planes are flying. Grounded and delayed flights cost the airline money. Keep this in mind next time you feel like taking out your weather related frustration on a gate agent.
Your baggage didn’t arrive with you in Seattle (SEA)? This is extremely frustrating, but you can be certain that the airline representative in Seattle (SEA) didn’t forget to load your bags onto the flight you boarded in Orange County (SNA). You can express your irritation. I have expressed my frustration many times when my bags on one specific US Airways flight between Philadelphia (PHL) and Providence (PVD) failed to make my flight home 14 times in a single year (yes, fourteen…as in a bakers dozen, plus one!). My frustration however is never aimed at the baggage counter agent. That person has nothing to do with my bags arriving. Being polite and nice goes a long way for getting what I need, rather than ranting.
One significant area of airport etiquette when dealing with an airline agent has to do with upgrades. If you have ‘status’ you know you need to be on ‘the list’ to wait for an upgrade. If you do not have ‘status’ and you ask for an upgrade you should know that it probably won’t happen and if you denied you should not rant at the gate agent.
Recently I watched a woman demand an upgrade. She was denied. The flyer launched into the all to often heard “do you know how often I fly your airline?” The airline agent had a fantastic reply “clearly not even 25,000 miles a year.” This of course outraged the flyer, but let a number of us in the gate area have a nice laugh.
Upgrades are a perk. If you don’t get your upgrade relax, and don’t raise your voice. Yelling at the one person who could possibly get you an upgrade, or pass you over for an upgrade is never a good idea. I missed more than a dozen upgrades in a row while flying United at once point. Eventually it just became funny to me. In fact, with my current frequent flyer programs, nearly 90% of my US domestic travel is done in economy. I know how cramped and uncomfortable economy seats can be.
However when I don’t get my upgrade I simply thank the agent for looking, smile and walk off. This tactic has actually landed me a few upgrades (at least three I know I did not deserve)
Didn’t your Mom ever tell you that you catch more Bees with Honey than with Vinegar?
Just remember that the airline representatives you are working with are people too.