Colin Nagy, head of strategy at Fred & Farid, a global advertising agency, writes this opinion column for Skift on hospitality, innovation, and business travel. “On Experience” dissects customer-centric experiences and innovation across hospitality, aviation, and beyond.
A few years ago, Virgin America and Method had an admirable campaign.
Based from the insight that subtle displays of politeness could make traveling more enjoyable, the film, “We’re all in this together” was a playful reminder of decorum in the plane. However, watching it again, some of the insights seemed basic. Don’t hog the arm-rest, don’t take too long in the bathroom. Don’t talk too much, don’t spray perfume. Fairly flat.
For travellers, some gentle reminders:
A particularly virulent trend is playing videos on iPads and other devices in public, without headphones. Often, it is to keep children occupied. Other times, it is clueless travelers or a lonely person sitting alone at dinner Face-timing and allowing everyone else to hear their conversation. This is particularly acute in the Middle East. Don’t do it.
Decorum With Children
Traveling with children is tough (or so I hear). And one sympathizes. But also, one questions if that child really needs a business class pod to themselves, to use as a jungle gym for the duration of the flight. Or the time when I was surrounded in stereo sound by crying children and romper room behavior from Abu Dhabi to New York. Respect for other paying passengers — many of whom are trying to get some much needed sleep en route to an early meeting — is important. Think twice about kids turning left as you board.
Fried Food Free-Zone
How many times do you see someone getting into a closed, soon-to-be-pressurized cabin with something that should never be brought on a plane? I am looking at you, guy with the bag of Popeyes fried chicken brought into a Cathay cabin. Reconsider your fried food or french fry craving in sealed, enclosed spaces. Particularly those that go for 14 hours.
Chivalry and Empathy
Since most flight attendants can’t or won’t help, an attentive look around the aisle when boarding to see who needs a little hoist on their carry-on, or someone that needs a bit of assistance getting into their seat from a wheelchair. It’s not a free for all, and the smallest gestures are appreciated. Same goes for armrest etiquette. And if you really want to blow someone’s mind, turn around and ask if they mind if you recline your seat a tad. 10 percent more effort makes things more pleasant for all.
A refresher for hospitality providers:
No Sewing Circles Within Earshot
It pains me to even say this is a thing. But, on the tail end of a recent Virgin Atlantic flight from London, I was quietly reading a book at the bar, literally circled by employees bitching and moaning about their schedules and lives, generally oblivious to the fact that a paying passenger was among them. Behavior that goes beyond the pale and also reinforces that American bad flight attendant behavior is also spilling over to UK carriers.
Power plugs are table stakes. Whether at a restaurant, on a plane, in the airport, they should be part of the offering. In fact, a litmus test for me in restaurants is how this basic request is handled. As usual, Danny Meyer restaurants set the standard for electricity with a smile. At larger restaurants, a simple trade: an ID for a portable Mophie charger works wonders.
Doorman as Diplomat
It’s an old school notion, perhaps, but doormen are the first line of diplomacy. They should have a light for your cigarette, an umbrella at hand and for extra credit, a bottle of water and a towel when you return from a morning run like the Peninsula in Tokyo.
A recent stay at the Edition in Miami saw doormen failing and fumbling at the most basic of tasks: making a friend ask other people for matches like a junkie and generally providing no discernible other help whatsoever. The top-hatted bellmen at the Langham London, however, were pitch perfect and represented the best of the profession. A warm welcome, protection from the drizzle, help with directions, and subtle, professional gestures that demonstrated they take their job seriously.
Airlines are very good at seeing the benefit of what they cut. Remove a grape from a fruit salad, save money, etc. But they also don’t adequately price in the knock-on effect of these actions. Costs for checked bags means most people try to carry on and this has gummed up the boarding procedure and affect departure times. Also, I will never understand the desire to serve crumbly food (croissants, pretzels, etc) that make a mess and surely add time for the cleaners to coax out of the carpet. Thinking through the entire user experience, including trimming the fat from unwieldy boarding announcements and re-thinking that creative brief to do a “hilarious” in flight safety video would go a long way.
10 percent more effort on both sides of the equation adds up to a world of difference.