Service with a smile

Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport.

It’s a simple concept. Be kind and courteous to your customers, and they’ll remain your customers for a good long time. Even better, they’ll be inclined to tell their friends and neighbors what a satisfying experience it is to be your customer – which essentially turns your customers into a volunteer arm of your marketing team.

You have to love the simplicity of it all. Especially since this method of doing business has proven so successful over the years for such a wide range of companies, providing a stunning range of products and services.

I suspect you wouldn’t be particularly inclined to visit a business that proudly posted the slogan over their front door, “We specialize in surly service,” or “Come on in, we’ll get to you when we have a chance.” I know I wouldn’t.

With that in mind, let’s consider the irony that management (even airport management) often requires that smiling, outgoing, perky attitude customers love from their front desk personnel, but fail to carry that same can-do attitude into the executive offices.

I’ll share two stories that may help illustrate my point. Each deals with an airport manager being approached by a customer with an unusual request. See if you can spot the difference in attitude between the two.

Story number 1: A man goes to the airport manager to extend a courtesy. He has dismantled an antique airplane in its hangar, and is preparing to have it shipped overseas, where the aircraft’s owner resides. The man meets with the airport manager to explain that he has made arrangements for a truck to come pick up and move the airplane after it has been inserted into a shipping container.

“You can’t load an airplane onto a truck,” replies the airport manager.

The man reiterates that the truck will only be on site for a brief time, and is in fact picking up an airplane that is being relocated to another continent.

The airport manager stands fast, insisting the airplane must be flown off the field. Airplanes cannot be loaded onto trucks for any reason. The basis for this rule is never divulged. In the end the airplane is boxed up and moved without the airport manager’s consent.

Story number 2: A man who is organizing an airshow at a grass field calls the airport manager of a nearby airport to explain an unusual problem. One of his premiere airshow performers cannot takeoff or land from the grass strip he has available, but they are willing to fly their routine over his field. He asks if the nearby paved airport would allow the airshow performer to stage out of the larger field. The pilot will not fly his routine over the airport, but he will need a place to land, takeoff, and prep his airplane for the routine he will fly elsewhere.

“Sure, we can take care of him,” replies the airport manager. “Is there anything else we can do to help you out?”

Now which of those airport managers do you suppose has the respect and the support of their customers? As you can imagine, one of those executives runs an airport that is on the upswing, with new businesses putting out feelers as to when and how they might relocate to the field, and tenants who are satisfied with the level of service they are receiving. The other is no longer an airport manager.

We should all be thankful, and mindful, of the lesson buried in there.

You can reach Jamie at

Service with a smile. It’s not just for the kids working the lunch counter.

Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. You can reach him at


  1. Brad H. says

    Well said. It does not matter what business you’re in, or how knowledgeable or experienced you are; if you cannot make your customers happy to do business with you, failure is headed your way.

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