Here comes Air New Zealand with a big customer service win

What do the recent 2015 Rugby World Cup and Air New Zealand have in common?

Down under vacationer Debbie Winsett knows.

To her delight, she discovered that the World Cup champions, New Zealand’s beloved national team called the All Blacks, also perform in Air New Zealand’s creative onboard safety video in a rapping parody of Men in Black.

No, seriously.

Like many travelers, Winsett had become numb to lackluster and troublesome domestic air travel frequently accepted as inevitable. She wasn’t expecting any better when traveling to Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands via an airline that, like rugby, many forget even exists in our northern-hemisphere-centric world.

But she shouldn’t have worried. Winsett shared New Zealand Air’s lighthearted and entertaining All Blacks safety video with our forum to exemplify the airline’s positive, championship take on the flying experience. Her entire six-leg air journey was flawless, pleasant and restful, when everything went correctly and smoothly.

Everything.

That is some high praise for such an intricate and incident-prone itinerary on the other side of the world.

“It was a great trip with phenomenal service everywhere,” says Winsett.

Is her air travel experience really good news when one is pleasantly surprised when things go right, or when a travel service is delivered as expected and contracted? Or is it rather a bittersweet testimony to travelers’ lower expectations today and not getting what we pay for?

The Good News Guy previously wrestled with this exact debate regarding his own similar hotel experiences.

While we should consider generalities objectively, Winsett confirmed, “When we returned to inefficiency and rude service at LAX, including the U.S. Customs agents, we realized how unique Air New Zealand is in our traveling world.”

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Well, if Winsett feels that’s good news, then I do, too.

Although I play sports, I confess I am a guy with minimal interest in watching it. And I knew as much (or little) about rugby as I did about Air New Zealand.

I had to do my research. And, I confess, I enjoyed watching the no-holds-barred rugby championship between archrivals New Zealand and Australia on Halloween. Declared as the biggest and best World Cup to date, I rooted for the personable All Blacks all the way — sorry Aussies. Why? Well, at the risk of ruffling feathers, the way they played made American football look like a dispassionate shuffleboard game at a retirement home.

As for Air New Zealand, it is not only famous for its witty and star-studded air safety videos, but is also a serious contender to our own local, monolithic air carriers. Apparently, the U. K.’s Daily Mail agrees, ranking Air New Zealand as the world’s best airline. And Virgin Atlantic deems it worthy of being a codeshare partner.

I will let the rest of Winsett’s experience speak for itself.

“No delays, no lost bags, very clean planes, excellent food, wonderful in-flight entertainment, blankets, and beverages all served up by professional and polite staff,” she said. “Everyone working for Air New Zealand was truly kind and interested in our safety and comfort.”

Are you listening, domestic airlines? It can be done.

“Truly, nothing was amiss with their service, including timing, entertainment, comfort, professionalism, kindness, baggage handling, or even the website and app,” added Winsett. “It was all perfect.”

While traveling is unlikely to be perfect due to real-world unpredictability, how in the world did we get to the point where we are stunned when things go right?

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“I think it is just their culture to be friendly, kind and helpful,” Winsett says. “When I traveled before, even uneventful U. S. flights left me feeling more like cargo transport than a valued customer.”

Domestic airline conglomerates are deservedly on the hot seat from megamergers that are raking in record profits while reducing service quality. But while we are pointing fingers, perhaps we can also accept just a little of the responsibility?

What do I mean?

When was the last time you thanked someone for doing their best (if, of course, they did) for hours on end to get you and your belongings somewhere far away, safely, in a pressurized metal tube at 500 miles an hour? Yes, it’s their job, but so what? Think about how you feel when someone appreciates your efforts.

More important, do you compliment with the same vigor as you complain? Are we — really — being treated that badly that often, or do some of us take our society’s privileges a little bit for granted, with just a tad of entitlement, while leaving basic manners at home? If something goes awry, is it actually because we didn’t plan well? If we make an error, do we own the oversight and sincerely ask for help? Try it. You just might be surprised.

And never underestimate the power of a thank-you letter. Even seemingly big and heartless companies can be starving for a kind word. It is not only the right thing to do, but “paying it forward” may well increase the likelihood of a similar outcome for the next person.

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“I am working on my ‘attaboy’ emails and surveys, as Air New Zealand deserves to hear how they all excelled and how they amazed us,” concluded Winsett.

She reminded us to also watch their safety video. Winsett watched it all the way through on all six flights.

I can see why.

Andrew Der

Der is an environmental consultant and travel journalist specializing in water science, nature, eco-travel, and cultural destinations

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