Kneeling Flight Attendants

I’m back in Tokyo this week. On the short flight over from Shanghai, I was yet again reminded of the impeccable service provided on Japanese carriers (I flew with ANA). You have to fly a lot and be attentive to details to understand what I’m talking about in this post.

First the boarding process. There were three orderly lines at the gate. One for premier customers, one for business/gold customers and one for economy. Attendants held up clear signs indicating each line and directing people politely to other lines if they did not belong. Then, each line in turn was allowed to board the plane, by order of priority. Two attendants took care of the boarding passes check efficiently and quickly. The flight attendants took baggage from elderly or slow people and put it in the overhead bins. A fully-loaded B777 took less than 10 minutes to complete boarding.

As soon as I was seated, a flight attendant approached me to say they have my special meal on board. She proceeded to place a sticker on my seat indicating this fact. Why is this special? Because I was one of the first to board the aircraft, so when she approached me boarding was still in process and most people were not on the plane yet. This means she was prepared, she knew which seat I was going to take, and was watching that seat waiting for me to arrive. On any other airline, this process would have taken place (if at all) only after boarding was completed.

The guy seating next to me slept throughout the flight. So he missed the meal. A few minutes before landing, the flight attendant came up to him, got on her knees, and apologised profusely for the fact that she did not wake him up and made him miss his meal. She then proceeded, list in hand, to apologise to others who were also asleep. First the kneeling; she did that because she did not want to speak down to him, especially when apologising. Second, the apology itself. Can you think of any other airline where this would have taken place?

What Japanese take for granted, the rest of us can only dream about…

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