Oxford University Press

English Language Teaching Global Blog

1 Comment

Can I offer you some pigeon?

Female flight attendant smilingFollowing his posts on the oil and gas industry, Lewis Lansford, co-author of English for Cabin Crew, part of the Express Series, returns to consider the importance of clear communication in moments of crisis, focussing in this case on cabin crew.

‘E-wackoo-way! E-wackoo-way!’

The trainer shakes her head. ‘I hope he never has to clear a plane’, she says to a colleague. ‘No one will know what he’s on about!’

To be fair to the trainee flight attendant, chances are that if the plane had just ground to a stop at the end of the runway with the landing gear still up after an emergency descent, the passengers would fully understand what he had in mind – Evacuate! Evacuate! – and would readily comply.

As passengers on the receiving end of in-flight service, we forget that passenger safety – rather than passenger comfort – is a flight attendant’s main job responsibility. Miscommunication during dinner service can be unpleasant, but is unlikely to result in serious injury.

‘The worst mix-up I ever had at meal time was with a British passenger’, says Japan Airlines flight attendant Mika Wade. ‘He asked me for an iced vodka. Well, that’s what I heard. After he spat out the drink violently, I understood that he’d actually asked for iced water.’ Oops.

Wade continues, ‘I also once told a first class passenger that his meal was pigeon. He became very angry and said “People don’t eat pigeons!” I checked, and of course the dinner was pheasant, not pigeon. I tried to apologize for my mistake, but he was angry for the rest of the flight. He was very rude to me about it.’ Oh, dear.

Continue reading