A big shoutout to Captain Jeb Baum on my flight from Burbank to San Francisco last Friday. He modeled perfectly how pilots can quickly defuse anger over unexpected flight delays.
Morning fog is common in San Francisco during the summer. As lovely as that is to keep temperatures cool, it often leads to delays into San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
I was taking a mid-morning mainline A319 flight from Burbank to San Francisco last week. Although we boarded on time and were ready to pushback early, we received word of Air Traffic Control weather delay once onboard.
These are so common at SFO that I was not the least bit surprised. Other passengers, however, did not take to the initial announcement so kindly. Groans and cursing could be heard throughout the aircraft.
But rather than just hide in the flight deck, Captain Jeb Baum walked out, took the microphone, stepped into first class, and began talking.
He introduced himself, apologized for the delay, and carefully explained that it was weather-related. He explained that fog in SFO necessitates a “flow control program” in which landings are more spaced out than usual. That causes delays.
He promised to keep us updated and invited passengers to use the lavatories and their electronic devices while we waited. Our initial delay was 25 minutes.
25 minutes came and went. He returned and again provided an update. The fog had not lifted as anticipated and we’d need to wait another half hour. He apologized once again.
This time, there were no groans. In fact, everyone stayed calm.
Eventually we took off, made up some time (the schedule is always padded), and managed to land only about 40 minutes late.
The delay became secondary to how the delay was handled. By expressing empathy and being transparent, Captain Baum neutralized what could have been a very nasty situation. This is exactly what every captain should do during delays. As always, it is the little things that make big differences in terms of customer perception.
The Biscoff cookies helped as well…
— Matthew Klint (@LiveandLetsFly) August 30, 2019