Customer Experience from a Pilot’s Perspective

Research shows that customers want to hear from pilots, especially during irregular operations. They are more likely to remain calm and have a pleasant experience when they are communicated with by the pilot flying their aircraft. Therefore, airlines should view pilots as an asset for increased customer satisfaction and encourage them to be part of their customer-excellence team.

Following the crash of Germanwings flight 9525 in March, many pilots took extra measures to reassure nervous flyers by personalizing interactions and “humanizing” themselves. Actions ranged from giving emotional speeches to personal contact with boarding passengers – in some cases, shaking hands and even hugging. There were similar actions following the tragic events of 9/11, when pilots would personally address customers, providing narratives on what had been done to prevent future security lapses and their heartfelt confidence in the safety of that flight.

It is within these times of extreme tragedy that flight crews find themselves as being an essential part of the experience, a voice of reason to fight fear, filling the gap of human connection between an inanimate, metallic aircraft and the persons who put their lives in the hands of those who manipulate the controls.

It is within these remarkable circumstances that pilots will step outside of their normal duties (and comfort zones) to willingly engage with passengers; not because they have been directed by the airline to do so, but because they recognize that emotions of the situation drive a necessity of human interaction.

Yet, under normal circumstances, the majority of pilots avoid personal contact with passengers because they view customer satisfaction as something that is largely outside of their control. Many see customer service as the flight attendant’s responsibility and core competency and rarely consider their contribution to the overall customer experience.

Why? Are there no other circumstances that require a pilot’s input into the customer journey? Does it matter? Can pilots positively/negatively affect customer satisfaction? Should pilots even involve themselves with customer-service functions that are outside of their responsibilities?

Read the full story in Ascend.