On a flight from Chicago to St. Louis was a family of at least 8 adults traveling together, with as many children. There had been some problems among the family and one woman was particularly upset. The family was seated throughout the airplane and so their conversations were loud. Before the cabin door was shut some caustic words were said and one woman made a loud threat against the others. She then went to the cabin crew and complained.
The crew talked to all the family members and asked for their cooperation. All seemed very compliant and even caught off guard. They were unaware that the one was making such a big deal. The cabin members were very cordial, but firm.
After talking to the family one attendant approached the woman who had lodged the complaint. She was sitting just a few seat from me. He asked for her commitment that there would be no problems during the flight. I’m not sure what she was expecting, but seemed as if she wanted him to warn the others and take her side. He explained that their issue was not the problem, the issue was a safe, quiet and undisturbed flight for all the passengers.
He talked to her and explained that without her commitment the plane would not leave the gate and what those consequences might be for her and her family. She continued to sidestep the issue, telling him that she had warned the crew what might happen if she was provoked any further. The flight attendant was amazing, he reasoned, explained; reasoned and explained, and finally told her she was effecting the flight for the nearly full plane, but he would not let the flight continue until she committed to remain orderly throughout the flight, landing and exit from the plane. He also told her of the consequences of breaking that commitment. He was strong and forceful, but also gracious and calm.
She finally agreed.
The flight went well and without incident.
The flight attendant handled things very well. The rest of the crew also was supportive and were trained well to hold their positions, interact with the other customers, and insure a safe flight. The captain, the leader on the ship, and the copilot were unseen. They remained in the flight deck awaiting word from the cabin.
It was a great display of teamwork and leadership. When alerted of the problem, the captain let the attendant crew handle the problem. They were trained and ready for such problems and handled it effectively. Allowing the captain to worry about piloting rather than unruly fliers. By not stepping in the captain displayed to everyone flying that the flight attendants were acting with authority. It added respect to the crew.
I sat and imagined what could have gone wrong if handled differently. But the entire crew had acted correctly. They worked as a team and the problem was solved. There were no egos involved. No one displayed power or authority over one another. There was no issue of rank, power, authority or control. Leadership led by letting the training work its course.
The team worked.
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