Former BA steward reveals why business-class customers were the worst

Cabin crew secrets: Former BA air steward reveals how he ‘analysed’ boarding passengers, why business-class customers were the worst and his tricks for calming people down

  • In Journey Of A Reluctant Air Steward , Simon J Marton offers amazing insights 
  • The married father-of-four joined the airline industry in 1996 
  • He rose up the ranks, eventually leading cabin crew on 747s and 777s 

A former British Airways chief steward has given a fascinating insight into what cabin crew are really thinking during service.

In Journey Of A Reluctant Air Steward, Simon J Marton produces a Jumbo-sized volume of revelations from his time in the skies.

He describes how he would analyse passengers as they boarded for potential trouble-makers, why he found business and first-class passengers the biggest headaches and the subtle psychological techniques he would deploy to calm people down.

In Journey Of A Reluctant Air Steward , Simon J Marton produces a Jumbo-sized volume of revelations from his time in the skies

These insights come in the chapter titled ‘Passenger Psychology’.

Here married father-of-four Mr Marton, who joined the airline industry in 1996, describes how the greeting on the aircraft is ‘both a welcome and an analysis of several things… your boarding pass, your physique… could we use you as an able-bodied person in case of evacuation… but also your character and anything that might suggest trouble’.

He adds: ‘Rudeness is picked up on immediately, and any signs of a bad attitude, aggression or even danger are flagged mentally at that point. The commander is informed in the flight deck pre-departure of anything – no matter how slight – that could threaten the safety of the flight.’

Mr Marton, who now works for Wiltshire Council as an asset strategy officer, goes on to reveal that issues spotted by passengers, for example a potential defect in the airframe, are taken extremely seriously.

The 49-year-old can recall several occasions when a first officer has ‘come into the cabin to take a look for himself’ following an alert from a passenger.

Mr Marton, right, reveals that the best technique for keeping children quiet was ‘animal masks’

Mr Marton led cabin teams on 747s and 777s out of Heathrow

Mr Marton, who led cabin teams on 747s and 777s out of Heathrow, writes in his book that the ‘most demanding – and sometimes repulsive – type of people’ for him were those in business or first – and especially ‘gold-card holders’.

He writes: ‘By a long way, these customers were mainly genteel, respectful and good-natured. However, it must be said that I have witnessed the biggest tantrums and nit-picking behaviour from among this class of customer.’

He recalls one gold-card member in first-class on a flight to Las Vegas who complained that ‘no one escorted me to my seat… my jacket wasn’t hung up for me immediately and it took several minutes for our drinks to come’.

To put things right Mr Marton used a ‘power-to-suggest resolution’ technique and asked him: ‘I’m sorry to hear this, is there anything I can do to redress this for you?’

‘No, not really, I just fancied a moan,’ was the reply.

This passenger then ‘dropped this one into the mix’ – ‘Simon, I notice you’ve got a Scouser working in First. What’s a Scouser doing serving First?’

Mr Marton writes that he ‘had to hold my tongue to stop myself saying something I later regretted’ and ‘left the scene politely’.

He also reveals that the best technique for keeping children quiet was ‘animal masks’ – ‘every crew member should have one’ – and that if passengers are looking terrified during turbulence, one of the best ways of calming them is simply to smile. Because if they see that the crew are happy, they’ll realise that everything is ok.

In the final part of the ‘Passenger Psychology’ chapter Mr Marton reveals ‘the flights that cabin crew dread’.

He writes: ‘It’s known that Israeli pax [passengers] can come across as demanding… but once you get to know them they soften. A night-flight to Magaluf or Tenerife is going to bring out the boy-racers and the divas in force, and you are going to be cleaned out of lager and vodka. There will be raised voices, singing and disturbance. You have to employ the skills of assertiveness and diplomacy on such flights.

‘A full Dublin with a pay-bar could see you rushed off your feet just on a drinks-round, leaving you with the marvel of empty trollies.’

The other dreaded flight, he concludes, is the delayed one, which ‘brings out the worst in pax’.

But sometimes all it takes, he says, ‘is a smiling face and the relief is all too clear’. 

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