The answer is simple, when they are a customer.
I have just flown from London to Atlanta via British Airways. As they usual announcements were being made something really struck me. They no longer use the term passenger. The term was replaced with the far more meaningful word, customer.
It struck me all the more, because after traveling for many years I have come to believe that airplanes aren’t designed for passengers, there designed for airlines to extract more revenue. And anyone who travels will know, the whole experience is pretty awful and full of negatives. Even the place of transportation is called terminal…
But here we are, a real change in the approach. Finally rather than being a passenger, somebody who is a burden to carry, I was a customer.
Even more impressive was the unexpected proof of the approach. After sitting on the plane for only 10 minutes it went, tech, as they say in the airline business.
Immediately they apologised to the customers and handed round water and orange juice. When it became obvious the technical problem couldn’t be solved quickly, all customers were asked to leave the plane and wait in the lounge.
As we disembarked we were all handed a £5 voucher for refreshments, wow.
Eventually we re-loaded and off we went.
Now here is an organization that really has worked to understand the importance of customers and when it counts delivered on the promise of treating us, well, like customers.
Editor's note: As a contrast to this great customer experience it could of interest to take a look at this Youtube movie where Ryan Air Passengers (not customers) called the police after being sat on the plane for more than 3 hours.