American Airlines has certainly had plenty to say sorry about so far this year – maintenance delays and the grounding of Boeing 737MAX aircraft are wreaking havoc with the carrier’s schedules, while feedback over new plane cabins under its infamous ‘Oasis’ project is anything but complimentary. But as one American Airlines manager said in a recent internal memo, “it’s difficult to find yourself apologizing all day.”
That’s why the airline has decided to give its flight attendants a quick reminder on how to make the “perfect apology”. According to the same manager, making the perfect apology is both a science and an art.
“When we face IROP (irregular operations) days, maintenance delays, and catering issues, customer emotions can escalate and you may need to offer an apology to acknowledge how they feel,” the memo reads.
“I know that is easier said than done. It’s difficult to find yourself apologizing all day for things that don’t go as planned or are beyond your control. So let us explore what the perfect apology is and how we can deliver it,” the memo continues.
So what makes the perfect apology?
• A detailed account of the situation
• Acknowledgement of the hurt or damage done as it shows you validate their feelings and the customer begins to sense you understand the situation
• Taking responsibility without making excuses for the situation is important as the apology is about them and how they feel
• Offer a form of restitution whenever possible
But wait, there’s more… the memo also suggests flights attendants use an acronym to remember how to apologize which goes like this:
Listen: Customers need and a want to vent their frustration so show you care through your body language and facial expressions. Make sure you make good eye contact and re-state the customer’s concern to make sure you understand the situation.
Apologize: Remember to apologize on behalf of the airline without making excuses or blaming others. Keep the apology simple and make it genuine. Customers do not want a half-hearted apology.
Solve: In the event of a flight disruption or cancellation, remind the customers of the several options they have to get help while inflight or on the ground.
Thank: Hopefully you have been able to listen with empathy and offer a heartfelt apology for how they feel. At this point you can simply thank them for their patience. You could also end with another apology for the challenges they faced during their travel experience.
In fairness, this is actually really good advice – it all sounds very cold and calculated but there really is a way to make a perfect apology and the LAST method does genuinely work. That being said, what flight attendants (like many other of American’s employees) probably want more than anything is less reason to apologize in the first place – especially if you find yourself “apologizing all day”.
Some flight attendants may even be expecting an apology from the airline – there are a number of disputes currently affecting the Dallas Forth Worth-based airline’s workforce including the ‘toxic’ uniform, a potentially sexist performance management program and changes to the pension program of some legacy staff.
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.