Top 8 Ways How To NOT Talk To An Airline Employee

Yesterday fellow BoardingArea blogger Marshall Jackson wrote “Advice on How to Talk to an Airline Employee From an ex-Airline Employee,” which is really a good read, but it got me thinking.


Travel can be stressful, things can happen quickly that are unfavourable for passengers, sometimes due to their mistakes, sometimes due to circumstances out of their control.   I spend a lot of time reading, tracking and analyzing conversations between passengers and airlines and when in an airport I often try to pay attention to the disputes between passengers and airline representatives.


So … as my counterpart to Marshal Jackson’s post … here are my Top 8 Ways of How  To NOT Talk To An Airline Employee


•8) Do not demand to know if they know how often you fly with them, especially if are not among the highest end of the top tier of elite frequent flyer … and even then don’t go there. The customer service representative may need to respect you for your loyalty, but they have other passengers to take care of and if you force their hand demanding if they know how loyal you are, it means your loyalty is worthless and they have free reign to smile at you while telling you they can’t help you.


•7) Do not hang around the podium nicely dressed sniffing for an upgrade by pestering the gate agent.   The airline upgrade system is fairly rigid. Upgrades are typically based on status, so unless you have elite frequent flyer status and there are enough seats available with no one having higher status in front of you, you’re not catching a big seat up front. The gate agent does not care it is your honeymoon, that you just got engaged, your aunt Bertha just died.   Limited exceptions I have seen in the past few years are military escorting a deceased member of the military home, a very pregnant lady who was clearly in a lot of discomfort and soldiers returning home from combat deployment … and that is pretty much it.  Don’t pester the gate agent.


•6) If things are not going your way, never tell an airline employee “I’ll have your job.” These people deal with pissed off passengers day in and day out. If something didn’t turn out the way you want, be realistic you are not getting the employee fired.   Saying this is a great way to end up at the end of whatever list you are on.


•5) Just because you are in a suit, or flying first class, do not tell an airline you’ll be suing them or calling your attorney.  Those conversations are well above the pay grade and responsibilities of gate agents, ramp agents, flight attendants … and frankly … they don’t care. People sue airlines all the time over things. How is you threatening a lawsuit over not getting an aisle seat (I actually heard the argument once at Philadelphia International Airport) going to get you a new seat? Is it really worth the court expenses for a case you will lose over not getting your desired seat?


•4) You have been waiting hours for a delayed flight that was diverted … don’t threaten anyone that you will call the media.   You need to have a real situation and be dealing with someone high up the food chain to actually care that you may call the media, and in turn it needs to be a real situation or the media won’t care and you just sound like an idiot.


•3) Refrain from swearing at airline employees. Do you like when someone swears at you?  How often do you change your opinion and work harder to solve someone’s problem when they are swearing at you?  The answer is more than likely never and keep in mind every airline employee you’re dealing with is a person … a person who does not want you swearing at them for something outside their personal control.


•2) Keep this in mind, everyone in the airport boarding a flight has somewhere to be. Nearly everyone boarding the flights believes their trip is important and they need to be there on time. Flight cancelations happen, so becoming irate and verbally abusive to an airline customer service representative because weather has you stuck, a mechanical issue arose, a crew has timed out, airport congestion has caused significant delays does you no good.  Your gate agent cannot overrule the Federal Aviation Administration, Air Traffic Control, the airline dispatchers or the pilots.   The airline staff understands you need to be at your brother’s wedding in five hours, but maybe you should have taken an earlier flight or left the day before. Berating someone with no control over a situation is a great way to find yourself the first one pulled off a flight if an aircraft swap happens and passengers need to be removed from the flight.


•1) You can skip the “I am never flying with you again” rhetoric. Airline personnel hear this every day, and usually for things outside their control.   Saying you will never fly an airline again because of weather cancelations or medical diversions does you no good, especially if you’re the type of person who regularly chooses your flights with no loyalty and are driven by the lowest airfare available. “I’m never flying with you again” is a hollow threat and you don’t get any response other than “I’m sorry to hear that.”   Get over yourself; unless you are a very frequent flyer or high yield passenger, no one cares.



In short … airline employees are people. They don’t respond well to threats nor do they feel compelled to go out of their way to help you if you are acting like a person you yourself would not help if an out of line and out of control person was yelling at you demanding help.


Be polite, be courteous, be kind and most of all, be understanding. Sometimes things happen, sometimes there is no ideal outcome, it is all part of the travel experience.


Happy Flying!



One Comment

  1. Hilarious. I recently witnessed a (very annoying) young lady talking on the phone to, well, someone during a very long delay. (Paraphrased) snippets include:

    – “He was such a jerk. Sure, I told him to go f*** himself, but he was such a jerk.”
    – “United is the worst airline. I’m never flying them again. But I’m definitely not flying American. They’re really the worst. And Delta is also the worst. I’m only flying JetBlue ever.”
    – “I don’t understand why they closed the airport b/c of lightning. Those control towers are way taller than airplanes. What a bunch of a**holes.”

    This went on for almost 10 minutes before I finally ran away and sat at a different gate. Good times.

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