Flight Attendant Knows Best?

By Ron Rosenberg

When you do something long enough, you develop a certain "experiential knowledge" that helps you make decisions more quickly because you instantly recognize patterns that others are only seeing for the first time.

And sometimes, the difference between "recognizing" and "not recognizing" can lead to some interesting interactions.

For example, on a recent flight to present at a major industry conference, I had boarded the plane early because of my status on that airline.

I took my rolling suitcase down the aisle, and placed it in the overhead bin - with the long side running front to back - parallel with the airplane.

The flight attendant saw this and said, "The flight today is completely full, so you'll need to turn the suitcase around so that it is "wheels in" as this will allow us to get more carry-on bags into the overhead bins.

I responded that while I certainly understood this, I did fly a lot, and assured her that on this particular aircraft (a Boeing 737) that if she put the bag in lengthwise, the door wouldn't close.

Feeling a little "put off" - as if I had somehow trampled on her "flight-attendant expertise" - she proceeded to turn my bag the long way, only to discover that the door to the overhead compartment would, in fact, not close.

I must have had some kind of smug, self-satisfying smile on my face, because she immediately said, "Oh, it must have to be in there "wheels out" and tried it that way, with the same results. In fact, she tried the two other possible configurations with no success either, at which point she said, "Hmmm...I guess you're right - this one doesn't fit in the long way," and walked away.

While she may have known all about the systems, storage carts and emergency-exit procedures of that 737, she lacked specific knowledge about the interaction between the overhead bin on that plane and my specific suitcase.

In your own business, you may have "general knowledge" about your products and services, and still lack the "specific knowledge" of how people are actually using them. Make sure you take the time to listen and learn from your customers, clients, and members so you can be aware of - and actually exceed - their expectations.