Passenger Freaks Out Over Airline Survey, Accidentally Gave Flight Attendant A “1”

Airlines and hotels frequently send out surveys to customers after their travel. If I have a complaint about a hotel, I’ll often get a personalized response if I include it in one of these surveys. I’ve never received a response to a survey from an airline. They almost always are aggregated – rather than used to address service issues or counsel an individual employee.

At American Airlines they look at “likelihood to recommend” scores. Delta focuses on “net promoter score.” Delta’s focus on brand has often led the airline to promote its scores.

  • Before the pandemic Delta reported scores regularly, noting that theirs had risen from 20% in 2011 to 41.5% in 2017 to 44% in 2018 and “roughly” 50% in 2019.
  • Since the pandemic, with operational performance that hasn’t fully recovered, they’ve gotten less specific about thier scores and talk about it less frequently.

One passenger worried for a flight attendant on her recent Delta flight after giving the crew a “1” rather than a “5” by mistake. And she’s taken to social media to rectify the mis-score:


Oct 3 6:45am.her name Julie. She is a Five!

♬ original sound – Samantha Brown

Delta flight attendants are non-union, and AFA-CWA which is trying to change that would have crew believe that a mistake like this could harm an employee’s continued employment. That’s simply not true. And the mistake won’t, in fact, harm this crewmember at all.

Airlines that care about the product they’re delivering should, though, dig into flights were scores dip significantly – and not just look at aggregates. A score might fall because of catering issues, or even because another passenger had been behaving badly, but data points can uncover problems in the operation or opportunities for further training on how to deal with difficult passengers before future passengers become problems.

In other words surveys and data are a tool to identify where to look and ask questions, rather than a trophy to promote or ratings to punish. They’re not a lazy replacement for digging in, their a guide to help in the process of digging in to get better. Maybe what they’ll uncover is that the instructions aren’t clear enough in the survey, even, and so passengers are making mistakes!

(HT: Leonard)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. I totally agree with the customer here. While your opinion on surveys is an ideal scenario, the reality is that management does look at the employee averages on an individual level. Usually the employees’ bonuses and even jobs are at risk by bad surveys. Your mention of scores being used as a way to get lazy and judge employees instead of finding what went wrong is an unfortunate reality. Even a normally great employee can be reprimanded for a single failure. And sometimes individual managers don’t actually care that it could be just a screw up on the customer end and will will really come down hard on the employee for it.

    So that is why the customer wanted to make sure that it was well understood that the bad survey was their fault and not a true indication of how they felt about the employee.

  2. I can see how a public figure in the travel industry like Samantha Brown would want to correct her survey. The last thing she wants is a social media story leaked that she is a horrible person that gave a vindictive review even though she was given great service.

  3. Samantha was subsequently able to personally meet the team member in question to thank her in person.

  4. I recently took a flight with a connection in DFW. I got a survery for the first flight but not for the second. The FAs on the 2 aircraft were completely different, one was excellent and the other one not so good. I guess I can just write an email about the other flight not that it matters much.

  5. I’ve certainly pressed the wrong number on the phone before, especially before I put the time into Delta status and robotically hit 5 now unless the person was actually mean or giving incorrect information. The way the message is recorded, if you’re not familiar with it, inclines you to just hit 1 because most people are used to pressing that to say ‘yes’.

Comments are closed.