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Why Do Airlines Care If We Think Their Pilots Are Friendly?

by joeheg

It never fails. After almost every one of our flights, we receive an email link to a survey a few days later. I’ll usually take a few minutes to answer the questions about how comfortable the seat was and how I liked the snacks offered. It also gives me a chance to gripe if the WiFi or power plug wasn’t working properly.

There are always questions about the flight experience. Everything from how you booked your ticket, the agents who checked you in at the airport, the cleanliness of the gate area, how much legroom you had, and your feelings about their app are covered. I can see why, because those all affect how you think about the airline and your total experience.

They’ll also ask about the friendliness of the crew. Were you greeted when you boarded the plane? When you left? Did they smile when providing snacks & drinks? All of these questions make total sense as a crew with consistently low scores can indicate a problem that needs to be addressed.

There’s one question I just don’t understand.

Was your captain friendly?

What? Why is this important?

I couldn’t care less if the captain or first officer is standing there outside the cockpit when we disembark, waving and thanking me for flying on their airline. At that point, my primary request of the pilots has been fulfilled. They flew an aircraft carrying me, possibly my family and friends (and our belongings), from point A to point B and landed it safely.

Sure, a “welcome message from the cockpit” is a formality they need to do to let us know there’s actually a human up there flying the plane. All I expect is for them to tell me the flight time and when we’re supposed to arrive. A little dry humor about the temperature (either hotter or colder than our departure location) is appreciated, but don’t pretend it’s an open mic at the comedy club. Let me know if we’re expecting a smooth flight or if there could be some turbulence. Then get back to your job of flying the plane. My feelings aren’t the most crucial thing that should be on your mind.

I can feel for a captain of a commercial aircraft that is subject to the same type of “ratings” as your Walmart cashier. Imagine an airline telling a pilot that they need to be “nicer” to their passengers? You wonder why most times the captain is standing there with a numb smile repeating, “Thanks for flying with us,” over and over and over until the very last row of economy passengers leave the plane. To the airline, superficial friendly is better than introverted.

For me, I want a friendly flight crew, but I want a competent captain. I wouldn’t expect an airline to ask me to judge the skill of the pilots during the flight, which is the most important thing, so don’t ask me if they were friendly enough. Getting me to my destination safely is how they show they care about me. That’s all I want and should expect.

Until this dumb question is removed, every captain on my flights is getting an excellent score on their “friendliness.” Sorry if I’m wrecking the curve.

I’ll close with this last question. When was the last time you thought, “Everything about that flight was wonderful, but the captain had no personality, so I’m never flying that airline again!”

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

Cover photo by Naoise Culhane, courtesy of Aer Lingus

1 comment

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