I have a good friend that’s an A380 purser for a major carrier. I find his job fascinating.
Here in the US we don’t really have “pursers.” Regardless of what they call the “position” in the US, the lead flight attendant is basically someone that bids for the position and is paid a few bucks extra per hour to do paperwork and make the announcements.
That’s not really the case at most foreign carriers, which have actual pursers. Their job titles vary, from customer service director to inflight service manager to purser.
I happen to think my friend has one of the coolest gigs in the airline industry, so I asked if he wouldn’t mind possibly answering some reader questions. Of course the views expressed don’t represent those of his airline, which shall remain nameless (though hey, there are only so many A380 operators, and I can tell you it’s not China Southern). 😉
What I decided to do is ask him a few questions, and then you guys can submit your questions for him in the comments section. He’ll write a follow up post answering as many of the questions as possible.
With that out of the way, here are my questions for him along with his answers:
What’s your favorite part about being a purser? Least favorite part?
I think my favourite part about being a purser is that I am the one who gets to set the tone for the flight. If I brief my team in an energetic way I usually find that this creates the right atmosphere for them to get on board and deliver a great service.
I also enjoy the fact that I am in charge on board and therefore I can make decisions without having to check if they’re ok with anyone else first (unless it’s safety related in which case I’ll always let the captain decide). Of course the company does have policies which I have to follow too. It makes my day when I am able to solve a problem for someone. They get off the plane happy and it saves customer services from having to deal with their complaint.
My least favourite part is having to deal with a lazy crew member who doesn’t care about the job. I wish they’d just quit rather than keep doing the job because they want the benefits. There are plenty of other people out there who would love to take their place.
As a purser, what are you responsible for? Do you primarily manage your crew, or also directly serve passengers?
As a purser I have many roles:
I am a performance manager for my team. I assign their working positions and I complete appraisals on some of them, during each trip. I can also stand them down from duty if I find they do not know their safety procedures, they are not carrying the correct documents (eg flying license, vaccination record) or their performance is extremely bad. Thankfully this is a very rare occurrence.
I am a customer service manager for the passengers. I ensure that the services are being delivered correctly. I help to solve problems and deal with complaints. I also welcome back the top level frequent flyers during the flight and check if I can do anything for them.
I am ‘the secretary’ for the aircraft. I ensure that all the paperwork is in order for the crew and aircraft. We get something called a GD which is a group passport for the crew and I have to check the details on it are correct. During each flight I must make sure that all relevant paperwork is completed for customs in the destination country (eg Bar contents lists for the UK, Aircraft disinfecting forms for Australia). I also arrange to order anything we need from catering that is not part of the standard uplift (eg Extra juices and water). I document issues and provide feedback to the company for each flight too (eg Customer complaints, Delays, Catering shortfalls).
I am a crew member. On certain aircraft types I am assigned an area of the first class cabin to serve. On others, I will help out where I think it is necessary. I still enjoy doing a cart in economy!
Have you ever had passengers on one of your flights try to join the mile high club?
I’ve had several passengers try this. The company policy is that it is not permitted, but my personal opinion is that if it doesn’t affect anyone else then why not let them get on with it? I did have one flight where one of my senior crew rang me to say it was happening. By the time I arrived she was just opening the lavatory door. I remember seeing the lady shoving the man’s shirt in the sink and shouting “He spilt something on it and I was just washing it!” It would’ve been plausible apart from the fact that he had no trousers on either!
What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever witnessed “on the job?”
There’s so many of these that most things don’t surprise me anymore. I’ve had crew members not knowing which country they’re going to, passengers trying to shove bags the size of vending machines into overhead lockers that are obviously too small, ground staff that can’t understand English and pilots having an argument.
What’s one thing a passenger can do to stand out or make their cabin crew smile?
Just being polite and patient with us. Manners cost nothing and the way you speak to someone can affect how you are treated in return. An example of this is when someone has a complaint. If they shout and scream and make a big scene about it, I will generally do the minimum that is required by company policy. If they speak calmly and explain the situation then I am a lot more willing to go above and beyond. This may be the difference between receiving a complaint form and being told to write in or ‘getting a better seat.’
Being patient can really help. Some people forget that there can be up to 400 other people seated behind them that we need to look after too. If you ask the crew for something please give them a few minutes to bring it back to you. We hate it when several of us are asked and we realise when we’re all trying to get it from the same galley.
Which cabin is most difficult to work – first, business or economy class?
In my opinion I find the business cabin the hardest to work in. The passengers sat there have paid quite a lot of money (or miles!) and they expect a high level of service. On my airline the business and first class services are very similar so that means we’ve got less crew trying to deliver it to more passengers. I feel guilty when the flight is full and we can’t offer the highest levels of service because we’re running around trying to look after everyone. At the end of the day all I can ask is my crew do their best.
Please post your questions for him below, and you can expect to see answers to most questions in a post next week.
Thanks for reading!