Airline Says Attendants Don’t Have to Help Passengers, Be Nice, or Listen to Complaints

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Just when you thought customer service aboard flights couldn’t get worse, one budget carrier has notified passengers that there’s no chance airline attendants would help them stow bags in overhead bins. Attendants are also not required to use “polite language” when addressing passengers. And if you’ve got a complaint on the flight? Save your breath.

Skymark Airlines, a budget carrier in Japan, has come under heat recently because of the notices posted on its aircraft last month. The airline’s eight-point “Service Concept” guideline, introduced aboard flights in mid-May, is one odd, seriously customer-unfriendly concept.

According to The Telegraph, the notice stated that airline personnel would not assist passengers trying to place their bags into overhead bins. Passengers shouldn’t expect attendants to be all that nice to them either. The crew was under no obligation whatsoever to use “polite language” during interactions with passengers.

Why would an airline put such policies into effect? According to Skymark’s guidelines, the main explanation is that first and foremost, the crew’s job is to address safety issues. Tending to the needs of passengers is above and beyond the call of duty, apparently. It’s a distraction, especially if one has to do so in a cordial manner.

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What’s more, Skymark warned passengers that they were not to complain to airline staffers, under threat of being kicked off the plane:

“We will not accept any complaints made on-board. In case a passenger does not understand that, we will ask the person to leave so that we can take off as scheduled. If passengers have complaints, we urge them to contact our customer service centre, the National Consumer Affairs Center or other related agencies.”

It’s this last part that has gotten Skymark into trouble with the authorities. The head of Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency said that it was improper to tell customers to direct their complaints to public organizations, and requested that Skymark change the policy. Under pressure, Skymark recently agreed to revise at least the part of its guidelines regarding complaints.

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It’s all but impossible, however, for any agency to force an airline to be nice to passengers, though. Then again, you’d think it wouldn’t be necessary for the authorities to tell businesses that it’s not smart to be impolite to paying customers.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.