Every member of cabin crew has been told this line many times in their career: “It might be a Coke, it might be a stroke”. The meaning is that cabin crew shouldn’t ignore call bells, because while we might assume a passenger has pressed the button to order a soda, it may also have been pressed to alert cabin crew to a medical emergency or something else equally as serious.
Most cabin crew know that call bells shouldn’t be ignored but that being said, it can be difficult to deal with every single one – especially during the middle of a busy service or on particular flights with a certain profile of customer. Passenger’s, though, don’t see what’s happening behind the curtain and quite rightly expect the push of a call bell to be responded to immediately.
It seems as if that hasn’t been happening on an increasing number of Emirates flights over the last few months. In an unusual internal memo, cabin crew at the Dubai-based airline have been reprimanded for ignoring call bells.
The memo reads:
Feedback from our customers in the last 4 months has highlighted that cabin monitoring is not being done as it should be. Cabins are being left unattended and call bells are not being answered immediately or at all.
Cabin crew have now been ordered to answer every single call bell immediately and onboard supervisors must ensure a cabin presence is “consistently maintained”. In a bid to stop crew resetting call bells en mass from a central control unit, crew have also been told that call bells can only be reset at the passenger’s seat – once the request has been dealt with.
It’s no exaggeration to claim that Emirates cabin crew are some of the hardest working in the entire industry. The airline demands very high standards of service and crew are expected to work for much longer without a break than at many comparable airlines. Let’s be honest – there will be other airlines that suffer this kind of problem much more than Emirates.
You have to wonder if cabin crew are really the problem or whether Emirates could rethink its service flow to better manage the needs of passengers? Emirates has previously been criticised for putting the whims of passengers before all else – that’s great for the passenger experience but it’s not so good when it comes to managing expectations. Like other carriers, Emirates has been forced to make cuts, including removing a member of crew from certain flights.
Unsurprisingly, some cabin crew have criticised the memo, claiming it might be impossible to complete the service on shorter flights if they were to actually follow this rule. The reprimand comes just weeks after another memo suggested crew were stealing onboard property.
The issue of when passengers should use the call bell is a hotly debated one – some people think it should only be pressed in an emergency, other’s see it as a perfectly acceptable way to summon crew for a service request. On some flights with a certain passenger profile, you might not hear a single call bell go off, on others it’s as if they are trying to transmit Morse code.