Fea­ture: Ser­vice plan­ning

George Banks had a long and dis­tin­guished ca­reer in in­flight ser­vice and con­cludes at­ten­tion to de­tail and con­sis­tency are key to an air­line’s rep­u­ta­tion

Onboard Hospitality - - Contents -

ser­vice mat­ters and air­lines to­day spend a lot of time and money on cabin ser­vice train­ing, teach­ing end­less reg­i­mented rou­tines for a speedy ser­vice.

With of­ten over 400 pas­sen­gers to be served in Econ­omy and a lim­ited time-frame, crew need clear pri­or­i­ties. Pas­sen­gers are scru­ti­n­is­ing them - won­der­ing why one aisle is be­ing served be­fore an­other, not­ing if the stew­ardess is avoid­ing eye con­tact and wait­ing to see if their choice is avail­able.

In pre­mium cab­ins a more flex­i­ble, per­sonal ser­vice is ex­pected, but what­ever the in­flight ser­vice plan, ev­ery el­e­ment has to be trans­lated into prac­ti­cal train­ing be­fore a sin­gle pas­sen­ger gets served.

In­flight ser­vice rou­tines are cre­ated by each air­line for spe­cific air­craft. Ev­ery air­line likes to dif­fer­en­ti­ate its ser­vice style.

pro­ce­dure train­ing

Stan­dard train­ing can be any­thing from three to six weeks, with ad­di­tional pre­mium cabin train­ing later. Every­thing is cov­ered, from safety and pas­sen­ger psy­chol­ogy to per­sonal groom­ing, food pre­sen­ta­tion, seat me­chan­ics and the com­plex­i­ties of the IFE sys­tem. Ev­ery air­line has dif­fer­ent pro­ce­dures but in­dus­try stan­dards in­clude of­fer­ing a co­or­di­nated ser­vice down both aisles at the same time, and work­ing from the front of the cabin to the back. Tra­di­tion­ally drinks are of­fered with a coaster and savoury nib­bles or nuts, and glasses are con­tin­u­ally cleared away with

the use of a linen lined tray. Crew are ex­pected to care­fully mon­i­tor the meal choice ra­tios as they serve, rec­om­mend­ing the least pop­u­lar op­tion as they go, as well as en­sur­ing warm rolls are of­fered.

at­ten­tion to de­tail

Pas­sen­gers want ef­fi­cient ser­vice and trays re­moved quickly but clear­ing can be harder than de­liv­ery be­cause of the way used items are left on the tray.

Pas­sen­gers are not in­ter­ested in un­der­stand­ing ‘the horse-shoe ser­vice rou­tine' (when one ser­vice cart is used to cover both aisles), the ‘double ended trol­ley' or how hot tow­els should be de­liv­ered with tongs, but it's these de­tails which add up to a slick smooth ser­vice.

De­tail, de­tail, de­tail sums up good cus­tomer ser­vice in the cabin, and these de­tails are now taught through ex­pen­sive mod­ern train­ing col­leges with cabin mock­ups and state-of-the-art gal­leys, au­dio video fa­cil­i­ties and for­mal class­rooms.

Agreed rou­tines are care­fully mon­i­tored to high­light the dif­fi­cul­ties of work­ing in a small space and to en­sure a smooth-flow­ing ser­vice. When new air­craft are in­tro­duced, new ser­vice rou­tines are de­vel­oped and tri­alled. The A380, for ex­am­ple, proved par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing and rou­tines were con­tin­u­ally fine-tuned or re­placed by new tech­niques and strate­gies de­signed specif­i­cally for the larger cab­ins.

Air­lines wanted to of­fer an a la carte ser­vice in Pre­mium cab­ins with an ‘eat when­ever you want' strat­egy (as on Bri­tish Air­ways in the 1990s) but an a la carte ser­vice in Busi­ness has proved dif­fi­cult and only re­ally suc­cess­ful on Qatar Air­ways and Eti­had.

Some air­lines of­fer what they call restau­rant ser­vice in Busi­ness with every­thing hand car­ried rather than us­ing a trol­ley. It's a more per­sonal ser­vice but slows things down. Crew can find it chal­leng­ing too and the re-train­ing needed is costly and time con­sum­ing. It may how­ever be es­sen­tial to en­sure an air­line's ser­vice rep­u­ta­tion.

Con­sis­tency is key for food ser­vice, re­heat­ing and de­liv­ery, es­pe­cially in Busi­ness and First where meals are of­ten plated in the gal­ley. Plates must be hot, food ar­ranged neatly and gar­nished with fresh herbs, or other items such as lemon or lime for fish.

This con­sis­tency is key to an air­line's rep­u­ta­tion and must be mon­i­tored as of­ten crew mem­bers dis­agree with some ser­vice plan pro­ce­dures and are tempted to do their own thing, to the detri­ment of the air­line. In the worst case, food is de­liv­ered luke warm or over­cooked and ser­vice is in­dif­fer­ent or over­looked.

Train­ing has be­come in­creas­ingly re­liant on tech­nol­ogy but air­lines still need to mo­ti­vate and train crew to be re­li­ably con­sis­tent in de­liv­ery. Those which mon­i­tor per­for­mance and run re­fresher train­ing and in­flu­enc­ing are ul­ti­mately the most suc­cess­ful.

Per­sonal ser­vice with the ba­sics of good man­ners and gen­uine smiles re­mains fun­da­men­tally im­por­tance and while other changes are cer­tain to come, this fact will surely never change.

Ser­vice con­sis­tency is key to an air­line's rep­u­ta­tion

Above: Bri­tish Air­ways cabin ser­vice with­out trol­leys Be­low: Qan­tas used a tray ser­vice when Busi­ness launched in the 1970s; Emi­rates is­sues crew ser­vice guides for each cabin and air­craft

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