I was on a Jet Blue flight the other day, already seated, seat belt snapped, overhead AC vent turned on high, watching the last stragglers get onto the plane.
One of the stewardesses, or stewards, got on the microphone and said something to the effect of, “Once these last customers take their seats, we will close the doors and get underway.”
I am not a customer.
I am a passenger.
If I buy a Big Mac, I am a customer.
If I buy a movie ticket, I am a customer.
If I order a beach ball off of Amazon, I am a customer.
But if I am on your airplane—if I am in a long tube encased in hundreds of tons of metal that will soon be rocketing through the air at 600 miles per hour—I am your passenger.
As in, my life is in your hands.
I would prefer the entire flight crew think of me as their patient, and not a customer.
But I’ll settle for passenger.
That at least implies a certain responsibility for my safety.
Customers are not guaranteed safety. They are guaranteed the product they ordered—like a fresh Big Mac. Or a ticket to the exact movie they selected. Or the correct color and size of beach ball they ordered.
But sometimes that Big Mac can be a little stale. And sometimes that movie you wanted to see is sold out. And sometimes that beach ball comes in the wrong color, or with a hole in it.
Oh, well. As a customer sometimes you win some, and sometimes you lose some.
I don’t even want to hear about those two options when I’m trapped on an airplane 35,000 feet above the ground or the ocean. There should only be one option: I win.
Yes, I bought my airline ticket. And yes, I paid for a service that you, the airline, are going to provide to me. But that does not make me a customer, just like the guy who goes in for a colonoscopy is not a customer. He’s a patient and I’m a passenger.
And we both expect more than just a receipt for our purchase.