By Marianela Cartagena

I would like to write about how to achieve in-flight passenger care excellence. Crew members who work on-board know that this is not something easy to accomplish as it may sound.

Without a doubt, firstly we should consider self-knowledge. If one does not know oneself it will be more difficult to know others. Crew members should interact with empathy. The passenger is in an uncommon environment so we have to be understanding. There might be some of the following behaviors: uncooperativeness, faintheartedness, annoyance, talkative, curious, and affectionate among others.

To inspire confidence in passengers from the moment they get on-board is priceless. Very especially for those who are anxious or afraid of the unknown. Therefore, I will go more in-depth about the following concepts:

Empathy: Human beings naturally think that things are what they are. Between the age of 4 to 5 years old, the brain’s frontal lobe creates a neural network. Lack of social comprehension or the incapacity to imagine what happens in the mind of others consequently makes it difficult to put yourself in someone else’s place. Someone who has a damage in the frontal lobe becomes egocentric and less empathic having troubles adapting to other’s perspectives.

The ability -both cognitive and emotional- to put ourselves in someone else’s emotional place should be a quality of all crew members. If not sufficiently developed, he or she needs coaching sessions to internalize empathy and strive to practice it constantly, as a way of living.

The ability to realize that someone’s belief is mistaken implies an intuitive perception that there are phenomena that he or she cannot see, for example, feelings, ideas, wishes, intentions, goals, and those might be the cause of his/her behavior.

The reflection: reflective thinking and conscience. The capacity for inhibition is located in the frontal lobes. First, a reflexive action occurs that involves a mechanism separating parts of “reality”. Reflection requires two parts so that each is reflected in the other, requiring a dualist mind, a circumstance that colors our perception of the world.

Throughout the development of the mind, we form our world’s point of view where on one hand resides the material and on the other hand the social and psychological dimensions. The material world is something we can see, but the psychological is not visible. We are dualists until we arrive at the “last reflection”, the ultimate level of duality: that of self-awareness.

Therefore, I invite you to reflect on what you have read. Increase the level of self-awareness that is to analyze yourself, acknowledge and create a vocabulary for your own feelings. Be aware of the relation between thoughts, feelings and reactions. Develop an active listening – stop judging and other thoughts – and from now on empathize with passengers, with whom you interact. Remind the role that perception has to play in people’s behavior. It is the basis of people’s perception about reality not the reality itself. Everyone has different ways to understand what he/she sees, listens and feels. It is important to keep in mind that our world’s perception is what we believe it is, not necessarily what really is.

(*) Marianela Cartagena, is a Psychologist from the Diego Portales University of Santiago de Chile and Executive Director of MCMSilva consulting. She has a vast experience in commercial aviation. She can be contacted at