Real Answers from Real Pilots

Pilot Public Interactions

I’m going to admit something I liked about the idea of being a pilot is you don’t have to interact too much with the public face to face (like a cashier or server would)…but is that actually true?

How much do you have to deal with the general public as a “server” meaning you’re playing the “kissing of the butt” card (so, not counting having to interact with crew or hotel staff during stay overs). Just, times where you have to go “Oh, yes, Sir, I very much hope you’ll enjoy your flight with us. It is our sincerest hopes that you will be flying again with us soon!” sort of stuff.

Mikael,

It can vary but generally not much. Some airlines (SWA, JetBlue) really encourage it but most don’t care and realize many pilots aren’t very good at it. A smile, a welcome and the occasional PA are pretty much the extent required. Obviously some pilots love it and go above and beyond.

Adam

Awesome. I’m very good at it but greatly dislike it so this makes me smile :slight_smile:
Ty!

I know when i get off the plane, I usually see pilots say goodbye to the passengers as there leaving, not all do it obviously, and some airlines require it, how often do you see pilots do it? I know you guys sometimes are in a rush to get to your next aircraft

Mikael,

We interact with the public on a daily basis, typically many times. The pilots are in many ways the face of the airline and are certainly the person that passengers look up to the most. I genuinely enjoy talking with passengers, answering their questions and helping them through the airport. My airline places a huge emphasis on this.

Basically, if we have time to stand there and say goodbye, we do.

Chris

Melek,

Again some airlines encourage it more than others and some pilots enjoy it more than others. Regardless a quick bu-bye and a thank you shouldn’t be a problem for anyone.

Adam

I don’t mind saying bye and stuff, it’s more of the over the top butt-kissing I greatly dislike. I’ve been working in hospitality for 6 years and hate every moment of it (unless the guest is actually nice, but honestly it’s so rare I just assume I’ll be yelled at or insulted any time I have a human interaction).
Going to work for me = emotional trauma

I just don’t want to end up in a situation like that, but smiling, hand shaking, waving or helping people who genuinely need assistance and will be thankful for that help isn’t bad.

Mikael,

My airline prides itself on being very flyer-friendly. That means helping passengers no matter what, even if they do not seem appreciative. It is important to remember that people are often flustered in an airport and sometimes that carries over to their manners. I have to tell you, that attitude that you present will not go over very well in an interview and I would expect you not to get hired at my airline.

Furthermore, flight instructing is in many ways customer service. I genuinely liked most of my students, but some were more difficult to get along with than others. Either way, I pretended to be happy that they were there and always gave 100% of my attention and efforts to them.

I think that without some serious attitude adjustments you are going to have a difficult time in this industry.

Chris

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I think you misunderstand me. I’m very, VERY good at my job, just because I do not enjoy it doesn’t mean I don’t go above and beyond and excel (and recently turned down a management position). I am able to smile no matter what, which is why I have been so successful thus far. What I’m asking is if butt-kissing to an extreme is a regular occurrence, which it sounds like it is not. When you work at a hotel…it’s just a very difficult job. You get insulted and put down regularly and are yelled at for pretty much anything and everything under the sun to which you have to smile, nod and go “You’re absolutely right, I do suck, don’t I? I’m the worst person in the whole world and I’m stupid to boot! I live in this town because I’m an uneducated, impoverished slob with no life aspirations! Thank you so much for informing me of my shortcomings, sir. I appreciate your input!” (Obviously not like that, but that’s exactly how it feels). The amount of abuse one has to endure in the hospitality industry is astronomical and it’s not something I’d like in a new career choice, this is why I ask. I really think you are misreading what I’ve been writing. I’m not talking about basic customer service, I’m talking about abuse and having to “kiss-butt” to please those who cannot ever be pleased. Would the flight attendants not be the main focus for this?

I am currently both a Front Desk associate for a major hotel chain (going on 6 years) as well as a middle school teacher (3 years so far). I can handle a lot of lip :slight_smile: but I certainly do not enjoy it. “Be nice, fake it if you have to” was what my mother always told me and I live by it.
I don’t mind helping, not at all, I just want to ask how often the above sort of butt-kissing occurs or if it even does at all.

Mikael and Chris,

Perhaps I can bridge the gap here. While Chris is absolutely correct, as pilots we are often the face of the airline and the pax often look to us for a variety of reasons (some positive, some not), Chris also (I dont believe?) ever worked in “customer service”. I was in the restaurant business for 10 yrs. When I started I was the nicest guy on the planet BUT by the end I was literally the Soup Nazi. During my first airline interview they asked why I sold my restaurant and I said “because I hate dealing with the public”. The Chief Pilot on that panel proceeded to ask me “why I was wasting everyone’s time by interviewing for a job that relies solely on customer service”. Fortunately I was able to dance REALLY fast and turn it around but definitely not my finest moment.

The moral of the story Mikael is while we do interact with the public on a regular basis it’s far from any hospitality or service type job and you’re in a very different position. And Chris lighten up on Mikael, the Soup Nazi wasn’t born mean, the customers made him that way :slight_smile:

Adam

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I should have added what I mean by butt-kissing.
Butt-kissing: the unquestioning submissive behavior in any situation.

I like to help, I just wanted to know how often I must be a door mat.

Thanks a ton, Adam…I honestly cannot believe you flat out said you hated working with the public (even if you truly did at that point. I’ve never been a strong enough person to work in the food services! Kudos!), haha. I’d say working with the public has made me a professional BSer, so, I can keep a smiley "I really enjoy serving the public on a daily basis. By assisting others you are able to better yourself and provide a positive example to coworkers. Often when dealing with a troublesome customer it is because they are frustrated and have difficulty expressing themselves. Empathizing and a kind, helping hand without losing your cool can go a long way and help strengthen the customer’s view of the company."
Boom.