Between TSA patdowns, cramped coach seating, and time on the tarmac, plane travel leaves a lot to be desired. While most of the time we try to keep our grumbles to ourselves, occasionally something happens that requires assistance, say you ordered a special meal or the airline lost your bag. When you find that you absolutely need to complain about something, like most things in life, it pays to remember some of the guidance that your mother taught you—be polite, make eye contact, say thank you.
When CN Traveler asked flight attendants what would make them happy to help a customer with a complaint, the bar was set fairly low and included things like using the flight attendant’s name, being civil, and recognizing their work. It more or less all boils down to that old Southern saying about catching more flies with honey than vinegar.
For starters, let the flight attendant know that you are fully aware that not everything that goes wrong on the plane is their problem, but you would truly appreciate their advice on how to fix it. For example, it’s not the flight attendant’s fault that the plane has been sitting on the runway for 40 minutes and you may miss your connection. While it’s a stressful situation, remember to keep your cool—and your manners. Don’t just bark, “I’m going to miss my connection!” Instead, when the flight attendant walks by, introduce yourself, and explain the situation, as in “Hello, Anna, I’m Jane. I know the delay is not your fault, but I was wondering if you could help me figure out what to do if I miss my connection?” The flight attendant is undoubtedly going to be much more willing to help.
Similarly, if the in-flight entertainment system keeps cutting out right when you get to the good part of Sweet Home Alabama you may be frustrated. Don’t just vent at the flight attendant, though. Instead, address the problem politely and ask for their assistance. They may be able to reset your TV screen or move you to a seat that has a properly functioning entertainment system or, depending on the airline, dole out frequent flier miles to apologize for the hassle.
If the problem involves the airline, and not the particular plane ride, try using the same politeness on the gate agent. If the gate agent can’t help, ask for a supervisor. They are frequently able to resolve all sorts of passenger dilemmas on the spot. If you can’t solve the situation on the plane or at the airport, file a complaint online or in a post-flight survey.
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Remember that everyone is just trying to do their job and keep passengers and employees safe. Recognizing their hard work (simply by saying “I know how hard you guys work” or “I know you are doing your best”) and staying polite can not only make them happier to help, but can lead to better results. That is certainly a win-win situation