- Knowledge Centre

Communication Skills for Leaders

A Different Way To See A Flight Delay

Some time ago, Dirk and I were at Southampton airport waiting for our flight to Leeds Bradford after a client event.

Each sat with a cuppa, relaxing after a really enjoyable client event, our relaxation was a little disturbed when a customer service agent announced on the public address system “Passengers flying to Leeds Bradford I am sorry to inform you that the flight is delayed by forty five minutes.”

Not happy, but it happens.

Around 30 minutes after her initial announcement, she returned and announced: “Passengers flying to Leeds Bradford, I am very sorry to inform you, but this flight will be delayed by another forty five minutes.” 

Dirk and I just looked at each other and spoke briefly about our late arrival to our respective homes. Hey ho. It happens.

Within moments of the second announcement, around 12 people passengers approached the customer service agent at her desk to express their anger, disappointment and more.

Another 25 minutes later, she returned once again, saw a growing crowd of angry people, some feeding off each other’s emotions, ready to jump at her. She wisely decided to walk away and return a short while later…with the pilot in tow. BRILLIANT IDEA!

Stood at the boarding gate with microphone switched on, the pilot announced “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are very sorry that your flight is delayed for another few minutes, but we are dealing with a mechanical defect on the aircraft.

He paused and then continued in a politely assertive tone “and I’m sure you appreciate that we want to fix it ON THE GROUND RATHER THAN AT SIXTEEN THOUSAND FEET.”


The miffed passengers suddenly calmed. Why? This was the same information, just presented in a different way. In a way that created a context, which then created meaning for the audience.

Notwithstanding the added credibility of a uniformed commercial pilot (Captain), this was a good example of reframing, which is a way to invite other to look at a situation from a different angle a different frame.

I’ve yet to meet a person who enjoys delays, but when focusing on the delay itself, especially when there is nothing we personally can do about it, we will only risk feeling upset at the situation and possibly resentful of people who have control over it.

The way to reframe a situation is to ask yourself: “What else could this mean? How might this look from a different perspective? Is there a frame of reference I could use that would improve the situation?”

Let’s imagine that you have an important remote meeting coming up and all of a sudden your internet goes down. How could you reframe such a situation?

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