The student pilot reached out to an aviation discussion group because she was frustrated and discouraged with her flight instructor, a man in his 60s. At various times, she said, he had spoken to her in a “sexist and demeaning fashion.” She had pointed it out and asked him to quit. “He said he would be more sensitive and apologized.” Fair enough.
“Yet tonight—once again—when I was planning my solo cross-country, he called me a dumb blonde,” she said.
Let’s stop and unpack that for a moment. The flight instructor called a customer—who presumably had already spent thousands of dollars to get to the solo cross-country—a dumb blonde. Imagine if you were hiring someone—anyone—for a service, and he basically said you were stupid. Would you want to pay him?
“He said it was just a joke and that I dyed my hair anyway, so I shouldn’t be offended,” the student pilot said. Oh, well, then.
We could have a lengthy discussion about thin skin, letting things run off your back, lightening up, et cetera, et cetera. We could have that conversation, but the facts are that the student pilot said the CFI insulted her on prior occasions. She asked him to stop. He said he would. Then he called her dumb.
As you can imagine, dozens of people on the aviation discussion board suggested she report this man’s bad behavior to the flight school manager. They said she should fire this CFI.
Guess what? She couldn’t take it to the flight school manager. This CFI was the owner of the flight school.
The student pilot did take her money elsewhere—to a flight school whose employees were content to perform a service and receive compensation for it, and they managed not to insult her in the process.
That doesn’t sound so tough. But time and again I hear stories (from men and women) of shoddy service and just plain rudeness from flight school personnel.
It’s almost as if some flight schools (and their owners, apparently) think that because they’re training people to fly—which is a wonderful skill—it places them at a level above basic customer courtesy. That’s just not the case.
And if you’re thinking, I would never do that to my customers, and my flight instructors would never do that—I’m glad. But you should still do a reality check every so often to make sure your employees’ treatment of your clients aligns with your expectations.
Jill W. Tallman is editor of Flight School Business.