Three flights in three days. Flight attendants were coalescing into a blur. Then came Lindsey. Lindsey was a trainee, looked to be in her very early twenties, and possessed boundless enthusiasm and genuine good cheer. As we taxied towards the very recognizable terminals in Dulles, VA, she intoned, “Welcome to Charlotte!”. Oops! The passengers chuckled, but it was not the cynical chuckle of weary travelers wondering how they just can’t get their stuff together up there. No, it was an amused chuckle, encouraging her to try again. When she opened the door of the plane, spontaneously, accurately, and entirely off script exclaiming, “O, it’s cold!”, we smiled. And when she offered a personable, enthusiastic, “Thank you for flying with us” as we filed out, passengers looked at her and wished her good luck or said thank you, rather than perfecting their usual “my feet are so interesting” look away from the greeter.
Lindsey will become a great flight attendant. But she is not the topic of this post: Ernestine is. Ernestine was her instructor. At the beginning of the flight, Ernestine introduced herself, then the flight attendant at the back of the plane, then she said: “And we have a trainee today. Her name is Lindsey. She is standing with me at the front of the plane. It’s her first flight. Will you put your hands together for her.” And we did. How nice to get an ovation on the first day on the job! Lindsey beamed in her new, impeccable uniform.
When Lindsey welcomed us to the wrong city, what did Ernestine do? She cooed supportively, clearly audible to the passengers in the first rows of the cramped regional jet, “That was so good! You got the level just right, not too loud, not too soft!” When Lindsay protested that she messed up the city, she said, “Sure you did, but you corrected yourself, that’s fine. The goal was to get the volume right and you nailed it! Now, you are no longer afraid of the microphone, are you?” Lindsey admitted she was not, and allowed she may actually have grown to like it. As Lindsey thanked the passengers, Ernestine was standing in the shadows behind her, beaming at her charge.
Ernestine is my hero. Welcome to Charlotte! What’s your coaching style?