Dear Unnamed American Airline

Dear Unnamed American Airline, (no relation to the real American Airlines™)

I recently flew with you from Chicago to Beijing and have one small suggestion that might improve the quality of your service.  Please consider banning Chinese people (especially older ones) from boarding your planes.

It quickly became obvious (and more painfully so over the course of our 12 hours and 6 minutes together) that the cultural challenges of dealing with Chinese passengers (especially older ones) were both distracting and irritating to your flight staff.  Repeatedly, flight attendants were placed in an awkward position requiring them to roll their eyes, flare their noses, grit their teeth, raise their voices and repeat themselves over and over and over again.  This level of stress cannot be healthy and I believe should be avoided in an effort to protect your valuable human resources.

May I take a moment to commend you, however, on your commitment to bridging that gap.  It was obvious that your staff had been well trained in the SATLTAD (scream at them like they are deaf) method of communicating across a language barrier which we all know is the most effective way to help people understand a language they don’t speak.

“Sir you need to sit down the ‘fasten seat belts’ sign is illuminated.  SIR.  SIR.  SIR You’re going to need to sit down NOW.  SIR.  SIR You NEED TO SIT DOWN the SEAT BELT SIGN IS ILLUMINATED . . .  IL-LUM-I-NA-TED.  SIR!  SIR! Aw forget it, just stand up.”

It may be helpful, however, to refresh your staff in the more advanced methods of pretending to speak Spanish (to deaf people).  “El SEAT BELTO . . . DE LA SIGNO . . . ES ILLUMINATO!”  Just a suggestion.

I understand the concern of losing ticket sales and am sympathetic to your bottom line so I also have a second option for consideration.  You may consider requiring culture and language training designed to bridge the most obvious barriers and overcome the most common challenges.  I feel that adding this as a mandatory protocol for all Chinese passengers (especially the older ones) would be worth the investment in that it would make the entire flight more palatable and enjoyable for your flight attendants which would in turn lead to fewer disgruntled employees, lower turnover and increased profit margins.  Brilliant.

Your position is a challenging one and I do not envy you at all.  Faced with the global financial crisis that has wreaked havoc on the airline industry you are forced to make the difficult decisions that will give you the greatest return and an edge in a viciously competitive market.  Obviously costly details like translating the safety instruction video into Chinese are unaffordable luxuries in this economic climate but I have one final suggestion that would, no doubt, bring a predictable return.  Simply include in your branding the mantra of the ugly American: “Speak English or Go Home.”

Wait . . . scratch that . . . they were going home.  Ok try this:  “Speak English or Fly Asiana.”

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