“I will judge you by how you treat the people who serve you.”
I’ve spent a lot of time on social media helping some friends with their travel issues. Mostly I give people little hacks that I learned the hard way. These hacks and rules can make a trip more pleasant and if you break some of these rules, then things can get downright nasty.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll talk about, how you dress, your attitude, luggage, your flight attendants, comfort, TSA, customs and immigration, and dealing with jetlag.
We can all agree that over the past few years, airline travel has become less than pleasant. The seats are smaller, the flight attendants and customer service people don’t seem to really care, and dealing with TSA can be challenging. What’s more, after a ten hour flight, you have a multi-hour layover before your connection to your ultimate destination. Yea’ is it any wonder nobody has anything nice to say about the airlines these days.
How you dress and your attitude is as important as remembering your passport.
Economy class has been overbooked again, some are going to get bumped, some are going to take their seat, and some are going to get upgraded. At the end of the day, we will have some people who are not happy and people who think they are lucky. Luck has some to do with the outcome, however you can improve the odds. Or worse yet, your flight has been canceled, there is a fight out tonight that because of the cancellation is fully booked, and there is a flight tomorrow. Are you going to get out tonight or are you going to be spending the night?
Before I get into that all important catching your flight, getting bumped, or getting upgraded story. Let me tell about a few things that have gone wrong with my wardrobe while traveling. About four years ago, I was traveling to Estonia. I had just lost about forty five pounds and had not replaced my wardrobe because I was still losing weight. When it was time for me to get into the body scanner, I had taken my belt off and was holding up my pants with one hand. I stepped into the body scanner, raised my hands and my pants wound up around my knees. Everyone had a good laugh, well maybe not everyone, I felt a bit exposed.
About a year later, I was heading to Helsinki from Washington DC, I had an eight hour red eye to London, a four hour layover, followed by a three hour flight to Helsinki. By this time, I had mostly replaced my wardrobe, and was wearing a new pair of Levis 501 blue jeans. These were the worst pants to wear, they were tight, but they looked good, and the bunched at the crotch. I spent the next seventeen hours tugging at my jeans, trying to get comfortable and relieve the pain.
Now my travel uniform is a Tommy Copper compression shirt (because I have problems with my left shoulder), a comfortable pair of linen pants, either a silk or cashmere sport coat, and comfortable shoes that I can easily slip on or off. This is not high fashion, but it presents nice, I don’t get exposed, and I’m not tugging at my cloths for hours on end. That’s a win win in my book.
Okay, back to our getting bumped situation. A few year ago, I don’t remember what country I was in, I did not speak the language, and I just had a less than productive conference. I arrived at the airport two hours early, got through passport control and made my way over to the boarding area. There were two very long lines at the gate, noone was sitting down waiting to board.
A stone faced lady behind the counter was listening to people explain their situation, she would shake her head, say a few words a dejected customer would walk away muttering. I did not speak the language, but I could tell my flight had been canceled, my blood pressure was moving into the red, I was tired, and needed to get home. After what seems like hours watching people walk away either dejected or angry. (More than a few people wound up raise their voice to the stone faced lady. ) Finally the gentleman in front of me was chatting with her, I would see our stone faced lady was not moved by his predicament, she said something, shook her head and he walked away. It’s my turn, I really hoped she spoke english, I mustered by biggest smile, let my southern accent kick in, and as I was handing her my passport, I mentioned how much I enjoyed one of the local dishes and how much I appreciated the people in her city being so friendly and hospitable. This seemed to crack the stone face, she smiled and told me my flight had been canceled, but there was another flight later that evening it’s full and there is two flights tomorrow. She would see what she could do to get me home. As she was typing away, we made small talk about the food, what sites I got to see, why was I in town, you know, small talk. In all she was very pleasant, she even chucked at my southern accent. She handed me a boarding pass, I had been upgraded me to first class on tonight’s flight. I thanked her in her language (I mispronounced the word) our now friendly customer service representative thanked me for my feeble attempt at trying to speak some of the language. I then made my way to the business class lounge to have a glass of champagne and wait for my flight home.
What was the hack I used. First let’s consider the passengers before me who walked away dejected. Everyone of them, was dressed for comfortable travel, basically looking like they did not care how they looked. Yea’ I’m seeing a lot of people like that these days. Secondly, everyone approached her as it was a confrontation. Okay, her expression and body language told everyone that she was ready for a confrontation, that did not help.
I was in my “standard travel uniform.” Not dressed for a business meeting, but dressed like I actually cared about my appearance. Secondly, I recognized she had the power to either get me home or let me spend another night there. I smiled, was friendly, and said nice things about “her” city. On a side note, most people I have met around the world are very proud of their country and city. Recognizing and respecting this one thing will carry you a long way. Then after she helped me, I thanked her in her language. Really, it’s not a hack, I set myself apart from my fellow passengers. Someone once told me, if you want to be part of the one percent, you have to do what the other ninety nine percent don’t do. To set yourself apart you can start by looking like you actually care about your appearance and having good manners.
Now, picture yourself as the customer service representative, you have very few options to help the line in front of you. You have several seats on tomorrow’s flight and one maybe two first class seats for tonight’s flight. The person in front of you has an attitude, looks like they don’t care about their appearance, and is blaming you for things going wrong. Then you have someone who comes up, is friendly, cares about his appearance, and understands, you have no control over a flight being canceled. Who gets the flight tomorrow and who gets a first class upgrade on tonight’s flight?