Airline and Airport Staff Attitudes

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  • Anonymous


    I’ve been reading quote a few posts recently which, either directly or indirectly, touch on the subject of staff attitudes at airports and with airlines themselves. Several of these have suggested ‘national or regional characteristics’ (eg re Kuwait Airlines or the Middle East, which have been recent subjects) and these comments have subsequently been translated by other postees as being unacceptable or even covertly racist.

    One of my professional fields is organisational change management. I’ve done a lot of psychology over the years, although I’m neither a psychologist nor a sociologist (I’m actually originally a town planner). However, I have a theory which may be of interest.

    It is a fact that within any nation, there are dominant national characteristics which can reflect themselves in behaviour. These characteristics and created by (amongst other things) cultural values, norms of behaviour, beliefs, etc. Although there are always exceptions and it is very dangerous indeed to generalise, people will usually and in general, comply to some extent in their behaviour with these national or regional norms.

    My theory is simple. In the travel and hospitality industry, particularly international airline transport, bahaviours have to be consistent across the world if carriers are to attract and retain custom in a globalised marketplace. This means that individuals and carriers from every country have to modify their behaviour to a greater or lesser extent, so it matches an international standard. This may be more difficult for those countries where the GENERAL (I stress that word) cultural norms are furthest from that standard. This comment is not at all intended to be perjorative, I must add.

    The result of this is that in such cases, individuals are to some extent acting out of natural character when they are doing their day job, because they have to meet that international ‘common denominator’ of behaviour. This must be extremely stressful at times, almost like being on stage every shift. Logically, if what I suggest is at all true, there will be times when it is harder for them to maintain their behavioural facade (eg when they’ve had a hard day through delays, or when dealing with particularly difficult pax). This may explain why some airlines are generally ‘better’, because they come from countries where the natural cultural and behavioural norms are closest to the ‘international standard.’

    Just an idea.


    That is quite an interesting thought Simon. I deal in customer service monitoring in transport (although not airlines) and usually the better service is provided by the operators who have a committed management to raising the quality of their operations.

    If the management is not committed then the staff will not have the right direction to provide a good service. In another thread Airpocket says that the well educated, university types, public school people provide the better service, but the not so well educated don’t. In a way he is right to a certain extent.

    Having said that I have received some exceptional service from someone that “don’t talk proper like what I do” and had some offish and look down one’s nose from the “well educated”. The nub of it all is management and personality, right management and right training, consistant monitoring, kicks up the backside for poor service and pats on the back for good service.

    Some people will also be natural in customer service because it is their nature and personality thta shines through with or without training. Where as in another scenario a person will “do the job” and the boxes are ticked but its not done with the smile either outwardly or in voice and body language.

    How does that sound?


    It sounds very reasonable, N.

    As I’ve said, it is always very dangerous to generalise. On top of my cultural theory, you of course have to overlay the fact that, to quote Brian in “Life of..’, we are of course, all individuals, and our own physiology and psychological traits obviously are a major factor on our own behaviour as individuals.

    Training is, of course, a very major issue and I’m forever stressing its importance with my clients when we are undertaking change programmes. It’s the old ‘freeze-change-refreeze’ theory, and it’s the ‘refreeze’ bit which, as I’m sure you know all to well, that is often the most difficult stage.

    I too (as someone who meets all of Airpocket’s criteria) have had excellent service from people who are from a totally different background to me (or so it seemed) and yet been treated like dirt by those who (prima facie) are a close social and cultural match. It’s down to the individual at the end of the day, I guess.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, I tend not to use BA because I can’t chose my premium seats in advance, being an AY tier member within OneWorld, rather than BA. However, I will say this in defence of BA: from my limited experience of them (around 10-12 flights a year), I’ve not had the negative experiences of cabin crew that others have. Perhaps I’m just lucky, but I also tend to treat them as equals (as I do in hotels) within a two-way partnership. This attitude has usually resulted in a positive response. On some other airlines (like TK – see elsewhere), such a positive attitude has met with aggression. It is on occasions like that when I see the cultural dimension kick in.



    I think that you hit on a very important point in your last post. It costs nothing to be civil to people. I find that a ‘good morning’ and a ‘please’ or a ‘thank you’ and or showing some appreciation to a staff member can go a very long way to helping prevent and or resolve sometimes difficult issues thereby ending up with a positive outcome for both sides.

    If we see the staff as our partners in getting us through the system and not the enemy with whom we need to do battle then life for all of us travellers would, I feel be much easier. there are many ocassions where I have seen the attitude of a traveller only escalate the problem instead of help to resolve it.

    I am very interested to hear the views of others on this subject but thanks to Simon and NT for starting this thread off.


    Hi everyone!!
    Simon and NTarrant you are both right in your posts.
    Regarding TK here as an example about Simon’s experiences. I have the impression, eventhough you are on the right side and having a positive attitude, you still could provoke them or giving them the impression of losing their own face. Simon only refered to some basic breaches on safety, only while the TK fatal crash was still fresh at that time, the TK management react badly and fearing to lose more of credibility.
    Some cultures or society react to complains, suggestions…. differently and unfortunately sometimes aggressively. Some take these as a notion for improvement, others just feel instantaneously insulted and feared to lose face or credibility.

    I still see the management of the airline or airport to be the figurehead regarding these aspects. A good and exemplary leader should lead and show their staffs to do it rightly, to deal with situations properly.. Yes, you cannot always be in a good mood while doing your job everyday. But you should be able to know how to dim out personal feelings at that moment while a customer is refering to you.
    About the “cultural differences”–as I have expressed in my previous posts. We are in a globalise world, the interaction between cultures are more intensively now than before. It depends in which branches we work.., the more often we encounter different cultures and attitudes, the more should we be attentive to learn and try to cope with the differences. Staying or upholding to one own’s attitudes/habits, while interacting with different people from different cultures, will only end to problems from the beginning. If you want to play “globally, you have to behave globally”. Narrow-minded local attitudes will not help you outside your local boundaries.
    I know what I am saying as I have to encounter such situations almost everyday.

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