On the face of it, this seems like a really devious question. The potential to say the wrong thing is huge. But don’t worry, the recruiter isn’t asking this question in an attempt to see you fail. There’s a very good reason why this question might be asked and some fairly easy ways to answer it.
Let’s start by looking at why an airline recruiter would be interested in asking a potential new member of Cabin Crew this question. Do you remember the infamous United Airlines incident where Dr David Dao was forcibly removed from an aircraft? The flight was overbooked and passengers weren’t willing to delay their journeys for the small amount of compensation being offered by airline staff.
So the gate agents and Flight Attendants simply followed company rules and offloaded three passengers. One, Dr Dao, refused to go – the rest, as they say, is history.
But this nasty incident could have been avoided if staff hadn’t so doggedly followed the rules. Sometimes, you need to look at alternative options and work as a team to come up with a fantastic solution for your customers.
Everyone Has Broken a Rule from Time to Time
With that in mind, the recruiter isn’t expecting you to say that you never, ever the break rules. That’s unrealistic and would probably make the recruiter question whether you are telling the truth.
Everyone breaks (or bends) the rules from time to time. The key to successfully answering this question is to prove why it was necessary. I would suggest the best type of example for this question is a clear customer service incident – A time where you have gone above and beyond to help and delight a customer – But had to break a rule in the process.
Why Was it Necessary to Break the Rule?
Start by clearly explaining what the problem was and how you intended to help the customer. Then go into some detail about how a particular rule prevented you from helping. You might also want to mention the other options you considered but then discounted. Prove to the recruiter that breaking the rule was absolutely necessary.
Having decided you needed to break the rule, show the recruiter you’re not irresponsible and taking unauthorised action. Did you decide the plan of action with a team? Did you discuss the situation with a manager and agree on a plan together? Are you empowered to bend certain rules and acting within those guidelines?
What Did You do to Mitigate Risks?
Most rules are put in place for a good reason so you’ll probably need to explain what actions you took to prevent or mitigate any risks occurring as a result of you breaking the rule. Remember, you’re accountable for breaking the rule.
It’s best to use an example where the incident has ended on a good note. A feel good story where breaking the rule has had a positive impact on a customer.
Taking Action for the Future
There’s just one last thing to mention. If you had to break the rule on this occasion, the same situation might happen again. What did you do to prevent it from occurring in the future? Did you hold a feedback session with colleagues? Write a report for your supervisor? Make a staff suggestion that was implemented by the company?
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.