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customer care training

Customer Care Training

A theoretical approach to customer care training part of Flight Attendant Training carried out by major airlines


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To better assist Flight Attendants with a level of comfort for handling the most common types of disabilities, the following guidelines have been established. Always remember, whenever possible, adapt our procedures to the person, not the person to the procedures.

Almost all of our disabled customers will fall into the following categories.


Eight percent of our population is hearing or speaking impaired. One signal to look for would be if they are wearing a hearing aid. Hearing aids only magnify the sound that they can't understand. It does not correct the problem. Persons with a hearing impairment will usually have a speaking impairment, if they can speak at all.

Deaf customers face many problems, such as:

  • Not hearing boarding announcements.
  • Not understanding pre-takeoff briefing.
  • Not knowing where briefing cards are located.
  • Not being able to hear "Fasten Seat Belt" announcements.
  • Not knowing of delays or diversion to alternate airports and, most importantly;
  • Not being able to hear evacuation instructions which could be given in darkness with loss of electrical power, or dense smoke which would impair the use of eyesight for exiting the aircraft.

Be alert to ensure that deaf customers are properly advised of these situations.

Many deaf people use some form of sign language for communication. Once a deaf customer has been identified, a variety of methods of communication are available. Sign language is one, written Instructions or written answers to questions is another, and lip-reading is a third.


Mentally Retarded

The National Association for Retarded Citizens describes a retarded person as "one who from childhood develops consistently at a below-average rate and experiences unusual difficulty in teaming, social adjustment, and economic productivity." Mental retardation may take on many different forms: moderately retarded (6% of the population), severely retarded (3.5%), and profoundly retarded (1.5%).

When assisting or serving:

  • Remember, customer first.
  • Be sensitive.
  • Talk to the person; communicate directly with the retarded individual.
  • Always address retarded adults as adults.
  • Make information easy to understand.
  • Make sure they are taken care of in the event of an aircraft change, turbulence or canceled flights.
  • When dealing with retarded children, remember they need discipline like any other child.

Mentally Ill

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill defines mental illness as "a group of disorders causing severe disturbances in thinking, feeling, and relating. They result in substantially diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life."



Is a severe thought and perception disorder, including hallucinations and delusions as well as emotional and behavioral changes. There is no clear definition of schizophrenia; it has symptom's that vary from person to person. Characteristics of schizophrenia include irrational behavior, very turned and shy behavior, paranoid behavior, and the individual may become over-excited, talk in a loud voice, or say and do things impulsively.

When serving or assisting the mentally ill or schizophrenic:

  • Act natural, give them the same respect you offer other customers.
  • Maintain eye contact and do not condescend; that attitude will be picked up immediately and resented.
  • Clearly state the rules, but don't single out customers.
  • Avoid staring or pointing at mentally ill customers.
  • Deal firmly with inappropriate behavior. Try to refocus their attention. Sometimes it is best just to tell the customer (away from other customers) that their behavior is not acceptable and should be stopped.
  • Listen sympathetically; if a customer tells you about delusions or hallucinations (remember they seem very real), explain simply and politely that you do not hear or see what he does. If he/she persists, tell him that it is not the appropriate time to discuss the subject. Please don't make jokes.
  • Never serve alcohol to the mentally ill customer because of the heavy medication they could be taking.

Flight Attendant Training program conducted by all airlines have these specialised subjects as part of their customer care training


Customers with Limited Endurance

  • Examples are a heart or lung condition.
  • Needs extra attention.
  • If the customer is known to have a heart condition, the use of a portable electronic heart pacemakers acceptable and will not interfere with navigational communication systems.


Customers Lacking Muscular Control

Usually identified by uncoordinated and jerky movements and by unclear speech. This area includes people with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis. Such disabilities are frequency misconstrued as being associated with intoxication.

Assist by...

  • Putting them at ease.
  • Maintaining a relaxed, unhurried approach.
  • Be alert for thoughts or expressions, not words. If in doubt, politely repeat what you think the customer has said.
  • Take the time to listen and give your full attention.
  • Be careful not to presume that customers with severe speech problems and customers with no speech are intellectually impaired.

Customers with Paralyses of Arms and/or Legs

  • Paralysis that extends from neck-to shoulder-level down is called quadriplegia. Paralysis from the waist down is called paraplegia. Hemiplegic is paralysis of one side of the body. Paraplegics may be accepted for passage unattended over InFlight Career Airlines route. Some paraplegia; will be able to manage some limited walking with the aid of braces or crutches. They may be able to move down the aisle on their own by leaning on the backs of seats. Of course when they come to an open area such as the galleys they will need some other support
  • Some paralyzed customers may have lost all sensation in the part of their body affected by paralysis. They may not be able to feel pain, touch, or distinguish hot and cold. Because there is no warning sign of pain for customers with this kind of paralysis, burns, bruises and abrasions can occur frequently.
  • Be sensitive to their problems and needs, particularly when placing them in their seats and serving hot beverages.
  • Ask if your assistance is needed.
  • Be sure to let them know if you bump them in a wheelchair transfer.
  • When dealing with a customer in a wheelchair, talk directly to them and, whenever possible, get on an eye-to-eye level.
  • If the person is traveling with a company, the companion will be able to provide for the customers needs, but the consideration and understanding of the Flight Attendant will make the trip easier for both travelers.

Customers Affected by a Stroke

A stroke is a sudden interruption of the blood supply to the brain resulting in damage ranging from a very slight weakness to complete paralysis of one whole side of the body. A Hemiplegic is a person who has paralysis of one lateral half of the body, or part of it, resulting from an injury to the motor centers of the brain.

Hemiplegic-in addition to paralysis, the sense of balance can be impaired, and there may be a tendency to become easily confused. Hemipligics may also have great difficulty in finding words to express themselves, may have blurred speech, and may have trouble understanding and remembering what is said to them. In addition, they may laugh or cry for no apparent reason. These are some common symptoms of this type of brain damage over which the person has little or no control.

Hemiplegics may behave as though they do not see things on their paralyzed side. Some actually cannot see objects on their paralyzed side while others seem to be completely unaware of them. For example, a man may shave only half his face, walk into walls or objects on his paralyzed side and ignore people who stand to his weak side. A good rule is that it is always safest and easiest for them to move toward their normal or strong side.

When it comes to seat selection, persons with a normal or strong left side should be seated on the right side of the aircraft so they can readily move to their left in case of emergency evacuation. The opposite would apply to persons with a strong right side. This suggestion also applies to customers with an artificial limb or with an arm or leg in a cast, splint or brace, and to persons with any disability on one side of their body.


Assist by...

  • Suggesting a seat with strongest side towards the aisle so they can readily move in that direction in the event of an evacuation.
  • Dress a weak arm first when assisting with sweaters or coats. When removing, the opposite is true.

If confusion is evident:

  • Speak slowly and distinctly In short, simple phrases, emphasizing the important or action words.
  • Try to stand directly in front of the customer so your face can clearly be seen.
  • Gestures will usually help.

Customers with Arm/legs In Casts/Splints

These customers require very little extra attention, however, they do fall temporarily into the category of physically challenged.

Assist by...

  • Propping the cast up as much as possible to keep swelling and discomfort to a minimum.
  • Helping in areas as necessary (i.e., assisting with coats, carry-ons, opening of packages, etc.)


Many customers have visual impairments other than complete blindness (i.e., cataracts, tunnel vision, etc.)

Always ask first, "May I offer any assistance?."

Blind customers generally employ one of two methods for dependent travel. Many use long white canes while others prefer the dog guide. Both techniques enable travel with little or no assistance.

Blind customers may use one of two kinds of canes: folding (telescoping or collapsing or rigid (4 feet to 5 feel in length). Canes should be stowed in accordance with F.A.R. 121.589. When blind customers desire to be guided, have them hold your arm. This way you can stay approximately one-half step ahead so that turns, steps, etc., can be anticipated. Ask, "How would you like me to lead?"

To help seat a blind customer, place the individual's hand on the arm of the seat. Convey where you are seating the person (row number) and whether someone else is seated in the row.


With the common physical problems of old age-as of 1990, twenty percent of our population was over 65 years old- twenty percent of the senior population has some type of disability.

Hearing and vision impairment are the most common physical problems of old age. Inflight cabin noise can make communications with elderly customers more difficult, and therefore they may not always hear new information. When speaking with a person who is hard of hearing, stand in front of the person so your face can be seen. Speak somewhat slower and a little louder than normal.

Changes in sensory perception is common. Always let an elderly customer know when a beverage is hot.

Unsteadiness is common, and coupled with the movement of the plane makes any attempt at walking seem alarmingly hazardous. Offer to walk along with them. When assisting elderly customers, hold at the waist, not under the arms. Do not grip shoulders or elbows due to the possibility of arthritis.

Stiffness and soreness in joints, especially with arthritis, results from sitting still for long periods of time. When possible, help them stand for a few minutes periodically and change position.

Please assist with stowing and retrieving luggage.


All customers requiring special assistance to evacuate should have been briefed prior to flight on evacuation procedures.

Should it become necessary to evacuate the aircraft, the blind person, if accompanied by a dog guide, should go down the chute with the dog in his lap. It is the master's responsibility to see that the dog is wearing its harness so that the pair can leave the area quickly once they are on the ground. The harness also helps to activate the dog's sense of responsibility and assurance. If dog and blind person should become separated in the course of evacuation, the dog should be led by its leash to the top of the slide and pushed down after its master has left the aircraft.

Tests reveal that persons allowed to use canes and crutches to evacuate an aircraft increase their time in reaching the exit. Not only is time wasted trying to locate, unstrap and entangle the canes or crutches from under the seat, but because of the narrow aisle, the customer cannot get the maximum benefit of their use. Therefore, reemphasize the evacuation command to leave everything at your seat.

The Flight Attendant procedure would be to assist a disabled customer when the flow of traffic has cleared and the evacuation of others would not be hindered.


The following are guidelines for assisting these customers.

  • Realize that a fear is very real and you can't fix the fact that they have a fear.
  • Ask "What are you afraid of ?."
  • Explain about takeoff and landing.
  • Realize they need attention.
  • Ask about their travel plans.
  • They may feel closed in or claustrophobic; move them to an aisle seat and open air vents.
  • Give them something to do (i.e., seat them next to a child as it will keep them busy). UNUSUAL SIZE CUSTOMERS
  • Ordinarily customers of unusual height, weight or width do not create any problem when carried aboard the aircraft. In the event a large customer might require more than one seat, two seats will be purchased.
  • A seat belt extension will provide extra comfort to the customer. Discreetly offer the extension, so as not to draw attention to the customer, embarrassing them.


Incorrectly boarded customers will be handled with tact and diplomacy and expedited to their destination. If the departing flight has left the immediate gate area, it will not return to the gate to discharge incorrectly boarded customers.


When a customer has overflown the destination for any reason (i.e., weather, failure to deplane, or mechanical), DO NOT commit what arrangements will be made. Overflown customers should check with the Customer Service Agent inside the terminal building or go to the gate area for further information on the arrangements.

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