Why would you deny your customers comfort?

imagesI was in the second leg of a trip from San Francisco to Singapore via Japan Airlines. Normally, I have no beef with JAL as I find their crews generally friendly and helpful.

After the first leg — an 11-hour flight where an equipment change landed me in a middle seat of three instead of the exit aisle I’d reserved, I was looking forward to my aisle seat on the second flight. It was still not comfortable for the 7-hour flight, but luckily I was in the back where the plane was more sparsely populated.

The lone woman in the nearby middle section moved to the empty 3-seat row in front of me. Drat! I’d planned to move there. But I figured I’d move to her vacated row as soon as the seat belt sign went off.

Soon a woman flight attendant spread a blanket over the vacated 3 seats and put an “occupied” sticker on each. I overheard her say that if anyone got sick they could move there.

As soon as the seat belt sign went off, I asked my section’s young man flight attendant if I could move to the now-reserved seats, adding that if anyone got sick I’d move to my assigned seat. He said sure.

Within seconds of my moving, the woman flight attendant appeared saying these seats were reserved for sick passengers. I said I’d secured permission from the young man and I’d move if anyone got sick. She glared at me.

During meal service I told the young man that his colleague wasn’t happy that I’d moved there, but I assured her he’d given me the okay. He rolled his eyes, clearly knowing her attitude, and said “Just ignore her.”

I stretched out, covered myself with blankets and had a nice long sleep. I felt refreshed landing in Singapore rather than depleted. I was grateful for the young man and thanked him.

My experience with many international cabin crews is they want to make their passengers’ journeys as pleasant as possible, given the general unpleasantness of the long flights in cramped quarters. So I scratch my head as to why the woman flight attendant would seek to deny me the small pleasure of spreading out, when clearly there was room. She would have had that whole row stay empty for 7 hours for the unlikely event of a sick passenger.

What is your staff’s attitude toward your customers? One of putting their needs first? Or covering for an unlikely event?