The power of a flight attendant to change your mood…

I should start with two (random and only mildly related) pieces of information. First of all, despite jetsetting around the world right now, I’m having a crappy week, so I was kind of looking forward to the solitude of being on an airplane for 24 hours, without too much human intervention. Second, I’m a bad drinker. I usually don’t drink alcohol, though I can’t turn down a glass or two of Dom/Krug on Singapore. More than anything else it’s the beauty of the glass, bubbles, etc., that I like, as opposed to the actual alcohol.

You know I’m a lightweight when I start making animal noises in the Singapore Airlines Private Room after two glasses of champagne. Oy. This is why I stick to Diet Coke with lime. Anyway, on to the actual flight…

As many of you guessed in my previous post, I just flew from Singapore to Tokyo Narita on Singapore Airlines in first class. I redeemed 51,000 KrisFlyer miles for the one-way ticket, which I got through a Membership Rewards points transfer.

In theory the flight I was on, SQ638, was entirely uninteresting. It’s a redeye flight with simply a breakfast service, though the service was out-of-this-world amazing. Hands down the best I’ve ever had on any airline ever. And this isn’t just the bottle of Krug I polished off talking.

As I boarded the in-flight service manager and leading stewardess welcomed me aboard by name before even looking at my boarding pass. As I was escorted to my seat (2A), the leading stewardess, Wong Chin said with the biggest smile on her face “Mr. Lucky, you have first class all to yourself tonight, and I promise to pamper you.” Oh, the possibilities…

And she did proceed to pamper me nonstop, even though I slept for most of the flight. At boarding she presented me with newspapers, magazines, a pre-departure beverage (when I ordered champagne she had a smirk on her face and obvious pride as she said “Mr. Lucky, would you prefer Dom or Krug?”), hot towels, pajamas, and the menu.

Singapore Airlines only serves breakfast on this flight so she asked whether I wanted it after takeoff or before landing, and I went with the latter. She asked if I wanted to already make a selection so that she could have it prepared for me when I wake up, and I went with the scrambled eggs.

While I was assigned seat 2A, Wong Chin set up my bed in 1A so that I’d be able to leave my original seat in the upright position for breakfast. After a nice nap I woke up and within two minutes Wong Chin appeared and said “Mr. Lucky, did you enjoy your rest? May I get you something to drink, perhaps some hot cocoa?” What am I, five years old? Actually I guess I am, cause I was totally in the mood.

Then I went back to seat 2A, where Wong Chin had set up the following display (and note that border is hand drawn as well, and she made the flower display out of paper on her own):

As soon as she saw that I was back in seat 2A she came over and said “Mr. Lucky, I took the liberty of setting up a little display for you. I hope you have an amazing day.”

It was truly heartwarming. There’s good service and then there are people that just want to make you smile, and Wong Chin fits in the latter category.

We talked for a few minutes, and her attitude was so refreshing — “Mr. Lucky, I love my job and interacting with passengers. When I set up the display the in-flight manager asked me what I was doing, and I said ‘making my passenger smile.’ That’s my passion.”

I kept stressing to her how amazing she was and how touching the gesture was, and said I’d put the note on my desk in my office as it would put a smile on my face every morning. She responded with “Mr. Lucky, in that instance may I put some more stickers on it for you?”

10 minutes later she returned with this:

While airlines, hotel chains, etc., might be large, faceless corporations, it’s individuals that deliver the experience. And while some might call me naive for thinking this, at times I’m genuinely touched by actions like this.

Stay tuned for the actual trip report, as this is only the top of the iceberg as far as the service goes.

Comments

  1. That was a very nice gesture on the part of the FA. Hope you get some sleep on the JL flight, time heals all wounds as they say. Or give it a few days and pick up the phone again.

  2. What amazing service. The only thing missing was a plate of warm cookies and a glass of milk! That’s why I love international carriers much better than domestic ones. It’s cause of the service.

  3. Damn, how bored was this FA? lol

    All kidding aside, how were the seats? I know there will be a TR, but first impressions on their FC seat?

  4. Gee Lucky.. I hope you got her number. She’s making all these moves on you. She wants you! LOL. But seriously, do you really expect anything less while on SQ? I love that airline!

  5. Do you think you get some of this preferential treatment because they know you’re a prominent travel blogger? I feel like that doesn’t hurt.

  6. So happy for you Ben, this is just what the doctor ordered. There are those who live negatively when things are going badly, and there are those that let kindness around them make things better. It seems like you’ve figured out the right prescription for living a happy life.

  7. Two thumbs up for Wong Chin!!!
    I agree with you, it is always up to the front line employees to personalize service and go the extra mile to make guests and customers feel special. After all, service industry is not about selling a product, but delivering positive memorable experiences.

  8. I am waiting for Frank to say something about the fact Lucky’s last name contains the word “schlapp” in German, adjektive meaning “weak/soft” that can be used to describe the original state of a male reproducing organ (i.e. when it’s not up).

    1, 2, 3 and counting…

  9. Some people are just genuinely nice and Singapore Airlines is one of those organisations that empowers them to put that to good use. Kudos to both the employee and employer in this case.

    I have no doubt that the note will be a treasured possession for years to come. Sometimes it is small moments like this that can really change your perspective on things.

  10. Can you imagine a FA on an American carrier even *thinking* of doing something like that (much less doing it)?

  11. I also have a pleasant experience on SQ to share. On my way home after an extended work stint to visit my newborn nephew, I mentioned it casually to the FA who took the time to have a chat. And what happens next? She returns with a huge paper bag of toys and playing cards (not all were suitable for a 6 day old kid though, lol), and took the liberty to put in extra eyeshades and toiletry kits since I’m a road warrior. This, and I was (only) in Biz! Thanks SQ!!

  12. It’s never too hard to tell the difference between those who work because they need a job and those who love what they’re doing. May your travel-blogging road be paved with FAs who love what they’re doing!! 🙂

  13. So when’s the wedding, Ben?

    Something tells me you’re going to end up married to a FA!!

  14. @snic – from what I gather, this FA happened to be female, so I doubt the wedding is anytime soon.

    Lucky, it is no surprise that pretty colors and decorations get your member all stiff and stout. However, it is wonderful to see you are appreciating things rather than bitching and moaning.

  15. Just to clear things up with people, I am in love with Lucky, but since I can never have him, I choose to deal with it by projecting my own feelings of self-loathing by making nasty homophobic comments at Lucky.

  16. @ jjj — I’m a Krug guy.

    @ Andy — A lot more with the report. As far as the seats go, they were good, though not the best out there.

    @ Kevin — I booked my ticket 60 minutes before I got to the airport. You tell me. 😉

    @ CP@YOW — Minor details. 😉

    @ BBD — You can bet I will.

  17. Wow ! and I thought the age of classy air travel was dead. She even encouraged me to fly Singapore in the future through your experience.

  18. This report brings back memories of what yesteryear and top class customer service used to be.

  19. @Antonio: major WOW right there, my post was ironic since I was wondering if Frank you discover that double sense and use it!

  20. Really cool, made me smile while reading it during my NYC morning commute. The stickers are fantastic.

    On a similar note, I was recently on a JFK-NRT flight on Japan Airlines (in economy no less!) and I was intrigued with a wooden foot massage at the back of the plane by the galley/lavatories. I kept using it and marveling to the flight attendants what a nice touch it was to have this on a flight. They we excited that I was using it so often.

    During the last meal service, when they handed me my food tray, there was a note (with a sticker on it, too!) thanking me for using the wooden foot massage, hoping that I enjoyed my flight and will return to fly with them soon. What an amazing heart-felt and genuine gesture. And it still makes me smile when I look at the note! 🙂

    I really think it’s a cultural thing and it’s something you’ll probably never see outside of Asian airlines. 😉

  21. @Matrix – suggesting methods to make petty insults so you can sit back and enjoy hate comments is disgusting behavior. Why are you trying to help Frank be the troll that he is? Is that honorable behavior on your part?

  22. I am just another one with a big grin on his face after reading this lovely story 🙂 And, like vroomvroom said, this is Asian stile 🙂

  23. This is SQ through and through. And not just the front of the plane. They are the only airline I know of that will serve you a martini in coach.

    Last year in coach I lost the small adapter to my Bose headphones (1 pin to 2 pin) somewhere on the floor. I searched around without luck and gave up and went to see the flight crew to see if they had any for sale. They didn’t but 2 mins later one of their staff was on her hands and knees in the semi dark and actually found it for me. Not your usual flight service at all.

  24. One way to tell if someone is being sincere or not is to consider what exactly you did that made them fawn all over you in the first place. Did you help them through a tough spot in their life? Did you show them compassion or vouch for their character when nobody else would? Or did you just happen to be the only first class passenger thanks to nothing more than random chance?

    I don’t enjoy being fawned over by strangers myself, so I probably wouldn’t be all that happy about this. It’s one thing when it’s someone who actually knows you and wants to show appreciation for something of actual consequence, rather than just reward you the amazing act of boarding a premium cabin.

    That’s not actually meant to be a knock on the FA or on Lucky. She had the wherewithal to pick the right passenger and the right level of praise to heap upon him and he genuinely enjoyed the gesture. Or maybe this girl was just really into Ben and was hoping he’d ask her out or something. Any number of possible explanations for this. 😉

  25. @ Dax — I see where you’re coming from, though I’m not sure I completely agree. There are some people in life that are motivated by what furthers their interests/goals (money, power, etc.), and then there are some people in life that do things because they’re genuinely nice people and want to make others smile.

    Take for example Terrence, a United flight attendant I had years ago that I still remember. I wrote about him here:
    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2010/04/30/amazing-service-in-first-class-from-washington-to-seattle/

    He did what he did not because he saw a financial reward for it, but because he genuinely loved what he did.

    Let me put it this way. Have you ever been in a foreign city standing on the street with a map, and a complete stranger comes up to you and asks if they can help you with directions? They’re not expecting money or anything else, but just want to be genuinely helpful. Would that also be something you don’t appreciate?

    At the end of the day if someone can make me smile without ulterior motives I’ll love them forever.

  26. @Lucky: Yes, I’ve had complete strangers help me with directions numerous times. Everything from a random flailing of digits pointed in a general direction to detailed turn-by-turn instructions all the way to being accompanied in person.

    However, none of these folks made any fuss about our chance encounters. Their help had nothing to do with who I was or how much I had spent to be there or what their employers wanted from them. We were meeting as equals. Regardless of what our professions may or may not have required of us in a business setting we were free to do as we pleased at that moment.

    That’s a pretty big distinction in my view.

    I’m not trying to say that every kind or helpful service employee is trying to scheme their way to a better position, tip, or pay grade. Nor is that what I honestly believe. I’m simply acknowledging that the roles and expectations are not equal between us. I don’t enjoy being made to feel uniquely important any more than I enjoy being made to feel uniquely irrelevant in the company of service employees. Unfortunately those two extremes are far too common in my experience.

    This is also part of why I am generally hesitant to flirt with service employees. Sometimes there’s no easy way to know if they’re really enjoying it or if they simply feel obliged or even obligated to participate. Or maybe they think it will manipulate you into providing a better tip or service review or what have you. That’s not not anything I want to be a part of either way.

    When it comes to interacting with front line service jobs I simply want to be treated the same way they would want to be treated if they were in my shoes.

  27. @Lucky are you using any skin care product like Kiehls? If not, you should consider start using them. Lots of flights will hurt your skin, make you become older faster because of radiation and dry air in cabin. Your recent photo looks a lot older than your actual age.
    I would recommend everyone who fly more than three times a month take good care of their skin, flying is fun but not really for your skin.

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