Did they just jump the queue?!

View from plane 2

Ah, the glamour of flying! I was aboard a plane from the tender age of one, and have never looked back. I mean, planes! I actually never cared about how amazing it is to be able to sit in a metal box 36,000 feet above the ground, and maybe that’s the reason I never felt a fear of flying. I care about the other stuff. A mint and a steamy towel to welcome you aboard.Tiny soda cans. A whole menu on one tray. In-flight entertainment.

When I was a kid, I would regularly fly on my own to spend the holidays with my godmother in Berlin. And although she is a fairy of a godmother, and staying with her was living in a kid’s paradise, the trip to her was riding the rainbow! There was always a flight attendant who took care of me, and that meant that I often got to say ‘hi’ to the captain in the cock-pit, and that I got a little bag full off little toys and comics. I never got comics at home! Flying on a plane was freaking A!

I collected everything I could get my hands on. Little sachets with pepper and salt? Wow! I made sure to keep the little toys and comics forever. And I would bring home the empty tiny cans home to my brother, who had a huge collection of cans in general.

Plane at sunset poznan war cemetery museum

So flying was very special. And weirdly enough, it still is. Although it has been inconvenient to grow up – when the time came that I was apparently deemed too old to receive my little gift-bag, I was heart-broken. Since then, a lot of things have changed, but when it comes to flying, I think it’s mostly me who has changed. I’m more easily stressed, I get anxious about missing a plane (I did miss one, once) and I’m much more aware of all the other people on the plane; their noises and movements.

But it is all still exciting. And when American Express asked us if we would go to Rio de Janeiro to check out customer service, as part of putting the results of their study to practice, which was about how good customer service makes people happy, we got ready for action. And although we actually thought this task would be tackled once we had reached our hotel, it already got its first representation when we arrived in the airport of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and needed to catch another plane to Rio, because those beaches were calling

Ipanema beach sunset 2

So we’re arriving into Sao Paulo airport, go through customs, get our luggage, take the exit into the real world and look for the right counter to check our bags for the next flight. When we find it, one lonely staff member, a young man, sits behind one of four desks, and there are maybe twelve people queuing in front of us. Then another airport attendant arrives, with a family of four in tow, plus three gigantic suitcases that must weigh the equivalent of half an elephant, and cuts the line. Which is okay; they probably need to catch a flight.

Only problem: a whole group of other people, who were also going to join us in our queue, have witnessed this and decide that it is probably going to be quicker to just cut the line as well. And since no one seems to know what’s going on (as it’s usually the case) and there’s no additional staff to direct people and make clear announcements (as it’s usually the case), people start getting uneasy. It’s still all very civil, mind you; but the mumbled expressions of discontent are getting louder and clearer.

In this all sits rather calmly the airline staff man, and I don’t envy him right now. I often contemplate how it would be nice to work at an airport because even though you yourself are not going anywhere, everyone around you is, and I like that atmosphere. This atmosphere right now is shifting, though, and I’m starting to get upset, too, because why is this poor guy all alone and therefore the centre of all the negative attention? Why is nobody coming to help him? Why isn’t he calling anyone to help him?


Finally, a colleague arrives and takes care of the over-flow for about ten or fifteen minutes, and it doesn’t take longer than that to re-establish order, so she unceremoniously leaves again. When we make it to the counter after another ten minutes, the young man smiles. Close-up, he looks like more of a shy character. His way of dealing with the problem had been not to start discussions with people, but to get as much work done as possible as quickly as possible.

I didn’t envy him twenty minutes ago, but I might envy him now just a bit – because even though he is not completely relaxed, he is pleasant and nice, engages in a bit of small talk while checking us in, even cracking a little joke. Not getting caught up in stress when it gets tough and still managing to be friendly and genuine, that is seriously good customer service. And yes, it did make us feel good.

So we’re rocking this mission, really. I mean, we hadn’t even arrived in Rio de Janeiro yet! If the going gets tougher for us here in Rio we shall not tell you yet – but we can tell you that our first day was terribly strenuous and intense. Okay, so it mainly featured beaches, but there also was a bit of rain-forest, surprisingly quite a lot of monkeys, some coco-nuts, mini-work-outs, new foods and many, many cab-drivers. Maybe not enough water. Oh, and plenty of men with big knives… Stay tuned!

Monkey Tongue Rio

We would love to hear your experiences with good customer service – did you get a treatment that made you happy and that stayed on your mind? Broaden our horizon and share!

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