In-flight roles you didn’t know existed!

In-flight roles you didn't know existed Mumbai, India

Presuming that after you’ve graduated from your prestigious Blue Whale Academy, you are offered the job of a cabin crew with a leading international airline, isn’t it worthwhile to ponder as to what’s it that you can expect while on the job? Well, to put it very mildly, every airline is different, so there’s always that bit of permutation & combination that you’ll have to do as you negotiate your own job. That said, by its very nature of being part of the holiday industry, there are certain universal criteria that one needs to adhere to. For instance, in general, you need to pay particular attention to

Grooming – You must be absolutely well-groomed and shining from head to toe! Yes, appearances do matter and since you are in a guest-facing role, you cannot afford to be sloppy at all. So dear ladies, please ensure that your skirts, blouses & other dresses are the right/recommended size & length, your eyebrows are well-done, you get regular pedicures & manicures done and your nail paint isn’t chipped & your lips aren’t chapped. As far as men are concerned, remember that suits only look good on men who stride about confidently rather than slouch. Also, get those ties matched to your suits & ensure that you never wear open/dirty footwear. Also, both genders must take regular breaks to groom themselves – use mouth wash, take a quick shower, dust shoes or simply hydrate your face with generous sprays of water. Again, as a thumb rule, never report late to work or report drunk – guests can make out the slur in your voice or the unsteadiness in your walk. So, if you’ve had a drink too many, call for sick leave & please get thoroughly rid of that hangover before you report to work!

Interaction – Since you are in a guest-facing role, no prizes for guessing that you’ll independently have to manage a lot of guests, a vast majority of whom will try your patience. But it’s important not to lose any of your patience for, you know, like the bosses have always told you, the guest is always right – more so if its a pregnant lady, a child or a person with special needs or that peculiar species of irate flyers – movie stars & politicians. In your interactions, be polite but firm – if they make unreasonable demands like going on to the tarmac to smoke during a lay over, or carrying in-flight warmers with them, simply say ‘You’re not permitted to do that’. Again, listen to what they’re saying very clearly before taking any action – if in doubt, ask again rather than mess up requests. Remember that the chances of a guest re-booking on your airline is directly proportional to how you make her feel now when she’s actually flying you

But all these apart, have you ever been under the impression, like most of the uninitiated masses, that the role of a cabin-crew member stops at just explaining the safety procedures, helping serve the guests, catering to their demands & helping them board & de-board the plane? If so, you couldn’t be farther from the truth! For, within the very precincts of an innocuous-looking Airbus or a Being, there is an entire paraphernalia of roles that require a high degree of specialisation to get done. Here’s a low-down on the other niche roles that in-flight crew members perform
Enhance passenger experience by giving their practical inputs to engineering teams for ergonomic seat designs which ultimately has the potential to be a product differentiator for the airline. Matters like leg-room, degree of reclining etc. are of utmost importance for such matters. This is more prominent for people who are travelling with babies as they generally prefer the front row which has more leg room and space for bay bassinets.

Coming to food, another differentiator that airlines, more than crew members, routinely ignore – it is common knowledge that the food that’s prepared for in-flight consumption isn’t exactly fresh but in-fact highly processed. And there’s precious little that you can do to help this situation – there are space constraints and other restrictions to be paid heed to. One alternative is to maybe suggest pre-preserved foods like biscuits but given irregular flight timings, it is highly unlikely that guests will have milk & cookies for lunch or dinner

Then, there’s another product differentiator – in-flight entertainment (IFE) or the movies & TV shows that play out on the screens fitted to the seat in front of you. They need the in-flight standards & practices compliance for the territory they’re operating in and general stuff like air-crash, hijack, blood & gore and generally anything anti-airline etc. that needs to be avoided. Also, in-flight media like magazines and accessories like headphones & remotes that need to be meticulously taken care of.

Then comes the uber experience of duty-free in-flight shopping. As a responsible airline staff, please be thorough with what’s available, what’s out-of-stock & what can be delivered, know credit card limits and never over promise. Remember, no one likes tall hollow claims and every good guest-facing executive will tell you that the motto should be ‘under promise & over deliver’

So, now that you’ve got the flow, please get about your doing your jobs better than you were until now!

How to be a successful guest relations executive

Guest Relations Manager Roles and Responsibilities

India has two unique and distinctive traditions of religiously following the sacrosanct phrases, ‘Atithi Devo Bhava‘ and ‘Vasudaivam Kutumbakam‘. Both are Sanskrit phrases which are essentially very similar in meaning – while the former means ‘guests are divine’, the latter can be loosely translated as ‘the whole wide world is indeed my extended family’!

As a guest relations executive at any of the sprawling three, five and seven star hotels that criss-cross the entire length and breadth of our great and vast country, you’ll do very well to adapt the above two phrases as your personal motto while dealing with guests and clients in your day-to-day lives.

This is so because guest relations is predominantly a people-facing job that requires a lot in terms of communication skills, soft skills and yes, the most-often neglected people skills that the two Sanskrit phrases which were evoked at the very outset of our conversation sought to invoke!

The first phrase – ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ – might ring a bell instantly as it is constantly being played out on our television sets as the hugely popular television commercial campaign of Indian tourism endorsed by Bollywood heavyweight Aamir Khan!

Let’s delve into some mythology now. Legend has it that Lord Krishna’s impoverished childhood friend Sudama’s wife, fed up with the family’s unending poverty kept goading him to seek help from Krishna. But, he refused to budge. Ultimately, after a lot more goading and pestering, Sudama went to meet Krishna, now the grand King of Dwarka. Krishna received him as befits a dear childhood friend, with rare state honours and ordered a grand feast and gave elaborate instructions for his pleasant stay too. However, even when it was time to leave, the self-righteous Sudama couldn’t bring himself to ask anything from Krishna. Krishna, however, presented him a little bundle of rice that’d keep him full throughout the journey.

Once Sudama left Dwarka, he decided to keep the bundle of rice for his family and instead manage on wild berries and fruits. As he was entering the narrow lane that led to his house, he was stunned to see a palatial palace looking out from the very place where his humble house had hitherto stood. Almost simultaneously, his wife and children ran out to greet him amid peals of laughter and thankful gazes. Moreover, He was surprised to see them dressed in clothes that were well beyond their means. It so turned out that Krishna had already guessed the purport of his friend’s visit and immediately went about ameliorating their sufferings. What was even more surprising was that Sudama felt that his bag had suddenly grown heavier and as he reached for the bundle of rice so that he could hand it out to his wife, he was stunned to find that the entire clothes bag had nothing but gold coins. Without so much as a word uttered, a friend had done his deed by helping another friend in need!

The point of the above story is that you need to go out of your way to make guests feel comfortable given that as first-time guests at your hotel, they are in an alien setting and among people they don’t know yet. This is truer in case of patrons (or guests who patronise your hotel) as you’ll be expected to know their quirks, follies & foibles like the back of your hand. In both cases, it is a very good idea to take & maintain notes about the guest to give them such personalised service that they award that birthday party contract that your boss has been pestering you for so long. Maintain a separate MS Excel spreadsheet and the physically taken notes too and be doubly sure to cross check details like anniversaries & birthdays. Also, if your hotel is pet and child family, please remember that all dogs aren’t named Tommy & all boys do not play football!

As regards the second phrase, ‘Vasudaivam Kutumbakam’, it goes on to induce the very essential quality of treating people as you would your family members. Just like we all have our roles to play in our unique families and have demands from family members to cater to, remember that guests of a myriad hues will pour out into the lobby and not everyone will be good to you. Please allow for the fact that everyone has their bad days, their tipsy days and their flirty days. Be calm & composed when dealing with all of them. And remember, personalisation is the key here too. If Ms Bannerjee likes her vodka with coconut water, offer her that, rather than decide on a tall glass of iced tea. If she’s paying for the service, she’s got the right to have her way.

So, all you guest relations rockstars, please remember to adopt the above two Sanskrit phrases so that you can be the girl Mr Batra looks for every time he flies down on business from Los Angeles to Mumbai!