THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

Read the instructions

On Friday Tim Caudrelier and I took a flight to Belfast with Flybe to meet successfully with a prospective business partner for 2014 and beyond (more of that another day). As the flight prepared for departure and the stewardess demonstrated our “safety procedures”, a couple of passengers on seats 2A & 2B engaged in a loud and distracting conversation. We wondered (from 2C & 2D) how she was going to handle it. The commentary paused as she calmly stepped forward, reached into the seat pocket in front of passenger 2B, pulled out the airline’s laminated card and politely asked: “could you read this and follow the safety instructions please sir?” He was surprised into silence and then sat there reading the card as she continued, with about 30 other people silently smirking behind him as if he had been “caught by teacher”. The reaction of the other passengers was perhaps childish, but not the concern of the stewardess. What Flybe had done was to give her a system with which to deal with a difficult “patient”. Turning to Tim after the event, I speculated on whether a dental receptionist, facing unacceptable behaviour, could simply pass over a laminated sheet on standards of behaviour and ask them to read it? Much later that day, our return flight was delayed by three hours (ouch!). Our 16:40 became a 19:30 – all part of Friday afternoon in British airports – but anarchy very nearly broke out when the 16:35 flight to the same destination boarded and left on schedule. At that point, the British rules for queueing were broken – and passengers started to lose it. We had to laugh at the communication style of one red-faced lady who attended the Flybe Executive Lounge desk and conducted this piece of masterful negotiation: Lady: Hello how are you? Man on Desk: I’m very well thank you – how are you? Lady: Well actually I don’t really care how you are at all – because I want to complain about my flight being delayed! Man on Desk: I see madam – well I don’t work for Flybe so can I suggest that you take it up with them? What did she expect? Given recent events – I continue to wonder how anyone thinks that aggression can bring about a negotiated settlement? People are very strange.

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