'Service with a smile' has entered a new dimension in the airline industry, with the introduction of staff policy changes at Richard Branson's Virgin Australia, meaning that attendants may only address clients as 'mate' if given written consent. What may appear to be bonkers bureaucracy is in fact a strategic move by the airline in a bid to win business travel clients from struggling competitor, Qantas. The policy, reported in yesterday's Daily Mail, involves an etiquette program called Elevate, designed to impress customers.
Staff are being trained to 'smarten up their act' in a series of classes from body language to wine appreciation. The affectionate slang, 'mate', is reserved exclusively for customers who fly regularly and have informed the airline that they are comfortable with the term.
This isn't the first time Virgin has taken it upon itself to take serious HR action. Earlier this year, the airline employed whispering coaches to instruct attendants in the art of quietness. Such 'honed skills' are said to be responsible for the calm and comfortable experience enjoyed by flyers.
Virgin Australia's group executive of brand and customer experience, Mark Hassell said: 'We are not creating clones and we are not creating straight jackets for people.' We'll let you be the judge of that.