Flight Attendant Communication

A few simple steps to follow so as to ensure effective Communication between Flight Attendants and Passengers takes place.

On long haul flights you could be with passengers for up to 16 hours and having a pleasant relationship with them will aid in making a flight stress free. There are times when things go wrong – these could include seating problems, meal shortages, entertainment system failures as well as conflict situations.

Effective communication with a passenger or between crew members in any conflict situation is vital for a safe and enjoyable  flight.


What is Communication?

“… Communication is a transaction whereby participants together create meaning through the exchange of symbols…”

This definition stresses four major points:

Communication as a transaction – a transaction involves two or more people who construct meaning together. They have to take one another into account, and have to work together according to a set of rules.

People working together – this definition stresses the importance of people working together. People have to pay attention to each other at the same time. They have to learn to develop mutual expectations. If mutual awareness exists then mutual influences become possible.

The creation of meaning – people need to ensure that others understand what they are saying. Words do not have meaning in themselves. People give meaning to words. The same words may therefore have different meanings for different people. Effective communication therefore demands that people work together to ensure that the meaning created is the same for all. There must be a sharing of meaning.

The exchange of symbols – exchanging symbols enables people to create meanings. Symbols may take many forms:

They could be verbal – words are used when one speaks or writes to others in an organisation

They could be non-verbal – these may take the form of gestures, facial expressions, the way people stand and the use of their voices in different ways.

They could be graphic – graphic communication takes the form of tables, line graphs and diagrams.

Communication is a two-way process that involves the transfer of a message from the sender to the receiver. It can be verbal or non-verbal, formal or informal.  The average person can spend up to ten hours a day communicating so it is important to develop your communication skills. When the message the sender intends to convey is received and understood by the receiver effective communication has occurred.

Effective communication in a company has three major functions:

  • Ensuring that products and services are of the best
  • Helping that staff generate new ideas and adapt to changes
  • Ensuring that work well together, understanding the organisation’s objectives and work to achieve these objectives.

The Importance of Communication

Good communication within an airline environment is essential if the objectives of the Airline are going to be realised. All organisations depend on communication, whether it is internal or external.  It is the glue that binds various elements, co-ordinates activities, allows people to work together and produces results. 

Let’s try and imagine a passenger trying to order something from a flight attendant when they are not understanding each other.

Since the beginning of times, man has always needed communication to convey needs, wants and expectations. But more importantly, the need for communication also comes with the need for companionship, acceptance and social interaction.

Communication takes many different forms, humans communicate verbally; using languages they have mastered as well as non-verbally; with body language as well as gestures from their limbs and expressions of their body and faces. Each form of communication is as important as the other and must be interpreted with the merit it deserves.

Effective Communication

  • Decide exactly what it is that needs to be conveyed and formulate the message carefully
  • Keep the message simple and to the point
  • Get feedback to ensure the message was received
  • Try to formulate positive messages
  • Remember that people have different values
  • Maintain eye contact; listen attentively

Most airline operators conduct communication training for flight attendants. It is very important to master the art of effective communication when following the career of a flight attendant.

Remember non-verbal communication is as important as verbal communication. The guide below is an indication of what non-verbal behaviour could be perceived as.

Avoiding communication breakdowns

Here are some ways that you can avoid communication breakdowns:

  • Ask for feedback — this is a critical way to check that your message has been received in the way that you intended. Encouraging questions and comments is an excellent way of checking if the message has been understood. Don’t simply assume that someone understands just because they say nothing or nod their heads.
  • Offer feedback —giving feedback is a key skill to develop. People need to know how they are going and that their efforts are noticed and appreciated. Feedback is a great way to do this. Too many managers only give negative feedback, and while in some cases this is necessary, to only give negative feedback is to undermine the morale of the person and even the whole team.
  • Consider your words — use ‘plain English’. Long, complicated sentences and unfamiliar words or jargon confuses people. Make sure your messages are clear, concise, concrete, complete and correct. Avoid negative or emotive words or commands. These can make team members resentful and uncooperative.
  • Use empathy — before making a judgment about someone, try to see how it is for the other person by listening to their side of the story. Having empathy can help you to understand your passenger’s motivations and perspectives and so improve your communication with them.
  • Consider timing — sometimes communications fail because of poor timing. You need to consider passenger’s needs. When you rush communication, messages are not received, and this can create unnecessary conflict.
  • Select an appropriate location — talk somewhere that will encourage open communication. Make sure it is free from distractions. If you want to give some feedback about something that is not satisfactory to a passenger, do it in private.