This week’s guest post is from Bex over at “Life Beyond Borders Blog”! A jack of all trades, Bex has previously worked London Heathrow airport, where she dealt with high profile passengers and learnt a lot about the logistics of aircraft travel. She has written the below post based on her experiences as a member of the ground staff.
I worked for a number of years at LHR airport as Ground Staff for various airlines. The sometimes 16 hour shifts would kill me, yet despite long hours I would always get a buzz and adrenaline rush from serving so many different characters. Unfortunately, serving so many different characters meant that you never knew what to expect…you could have a family departing on holiday who were excited and chatty, or a rude business man talking on his mobile, not even acknowledging your presence. It’s made me cynical about human nature.
Many people don’t realize you can get a lot further being nice to airport ground staff! Here’s why:
If you’re rude to the check-in or ticket desk staff, they can phone ahead to the gate staff and warn them…they in turn may swap your seat last minute to the one at the back; you know…the one by the toilet. We’re like a bunch of Communists at the airport: we all stick together. So be careful how you talk to those Check-in gals, they hide a devilish demeanor behind those red-lipped smiles.
Something happens to people when they enter an airport environment. Common sense is lost, and their real personality is laid to bear. Like I’ve said before, it’s the businessmen that are the worst. I put it down to the fact that they’re not used to being told ‘No.’ Young, pretty secretaries and P.A’s are at their whim, and they can’t cope with a young, pretty airline staff member telling them “I’m sorry Sir, you’re too late to check in for this flight now, you’ll have to re-book” (all the while smiling prettily, as we’re trained to do – especially when delivering bad news).
Lie – within reason of COURSE
“Have you packed your bag yourself Sir?” – Me to a middle-aged businessman
“No, my mum did it for me.”
*Deep sigh from me*
“OK now Sir, we’ll have to take you to be checked then.”
“I’m a solicitor! I have to be honest!”
Meanwhile I take him to the ‘room behind the check-in’ where you will be ‘inspected’ if you say you haven’t packed your bag yourself.
So, if you are a middle-aged man who still lives with his mum, and you’re sure your mum hasn’t packed any drugs or anything into your luggage, then be economical! In this example, the man was with his mother when she actually packed his bag (probably watching while he ate his dinner cooked for him) so he saw exactly what went into the bag.
You have to become smart mouthed
It’s the rule of survival in the airport. I was politely checking a man into his flight when my colleague next to me was having problems. A man was calling her some horrible names because his baggage was overweight and she was charging him (hint: it wasn’t very much overweight, and if he’d been nice about it, she’d probably have let him off the charge).
At the end of his diatribe, in which she was sitting very calmly, making eye contact, she asked him:
“Would you kiss your mother with a mouth like that? I doubt it very much, so I suggest you go away until you can behave your age. NEXT!”
And so you see? It pays to be nice to the Ground Staff…you can’t see what goes on behind that little desk of theirs, what messages they’re putting into your booking about you…nice as well as warnings.
If the gate and cabin crew ultimately get a nice message – they will act upon it. Now you know!
I’ve always wondered about this! Ground staff have to deal with so many different kinds of people in such a high-stress situation (flying tends to bring out the animal in people). How do people not realize that a smile and a kind attitude will make the whole experience so much better?
The last minute seat-shuffle to the bathroom seat is fairly genius, not going to lie.
I know – you would think people realize it’s people like ground staff who actually have all the power … yelling and screaming for management generally achieves nothing :D
I’m not going to lie – not envious of ground staff – a stint in hotel reception was bad enough for me re dealing with people!!
I’m always nice, haven’t seen any major payoffs yet…but for my karma’s sake alone I will continue to be nice for the simple fact that ground staff have to deal with so many rude and anxious people on a regular basis.
Hopefully your good karma will eventually pay off with a flight upgrade or something similar!
Have a wonderful holiday season :)
Great post Bex! I think airports are really fascinating. People are nervous or excited or grumpy or stressed or happy…but never boring! I always chat away to the ground staff and now I know about their secret communications, I will be even friendlier in future! Who wants that dreaded back row?!
Thanks for your comment Nene – and thanks to Meg for featuring this.
Yes, we really are just human – and now when I travel, because I know how Ground Staff are treated sometimes, I make an extra effort to be nice, and it’s amazing the ‘perks’ you get.
Hi Richard, I apologize for the incorrect use of your photograph. I have removed it and replaced it with one of my own. Kind regards.
Hi Meg, I want to apply for ground staff but I don’t know if they hire overweight people. I have emailed a few companies but I haven’t got any reply. Please can you tell me if I can apply?
Hi Suzanne, I don’t think that any workplace has the right to discriminate against you based on weight, but it would depend on which company and which position you’re applying for. Each company should have a job description and application requirements listed on their websites :)
All the best :)