This isn’t something you see every day or even every decade and it’s a shame. But there’s a new trend these days: CEOs are experiencing their company’s product from the front lines. RELATED: Grab a Tissue: Southwest Airlines Pilot Delivers Emotional Tribute to Veteran’s German Shepherd Service Dog on Her Last Flight
I’m not sure when it started but I do know that the new Starbucks CEO took a 40-hour barista training course and says he works in his stores as a barista once a month. The CEO of Uber moonlighted last September as a driver and made food deliveries to better understand why his company was seeing a slowdown in new recruitment. And the most impressive of them all is the billionaire and co-founder of DoorDash who makes monthly deliveries ‘to understand what people are going through.’
The latest CEO to work the front lines is Jens Ritter, CEO of Lufthansa Airlines. I’m not sure if this is a publicity stunt or not but either way, it’s impressive.
According to Ritter’s LinkedIn profile, he just finished working as a flight attendant on a flight from Frankfurt to Riyadh and Bahrain. He says in his post that he was an additional crew member and didn’t replace one so passengers onboard should have had even better service.
It’s not clear if the passengers were told in advance that the airline’s CEO was working but hopefully they weren’t. Though I would have loved to have seen a passenger act up and talk down to a flight attendant like some passengers often do, only to find out it was the airline’s CEO.
I should add that Ritter knows his way around planes as he used to be a Lufthansa pilot from 2000 to 2014, flying the Airbus A320 and A330/340 aircrafts.
Here’s what he wrote on LinkedIn:
“Sometimes, you need to change perspectives in order to gain new insights! This week, I accompanied our Lufthansa Airlines flight crew heading to Riyadh and Bahrain as “additional crew member”. What a ride!
I have been working for the Lufthansa Group for many years. But I have never had the opportunity to work as part of the cabin crew. And honestly, that was so interesting and also challenging! I was amazed by how much there is to organize, especially, if something doesn’t go as planned – for example the meals offered on the menu cards were not exactly the meals loaded on board.
It was so interesting to address the guests’ wishes individually, to deal with the different energy everyone has. I used to fly as a pilot and so I thought I knew about the challenges a flight during the night entails. But to be present and attentive and charming – when the biological clock just tells you to sleep – was something entirely different. The crew was terrific and welcomed me into their team right away. With their support, I was able to give a hand in business class on the way to Riyadh. Back to Frankfurt, during the night, I took care of our guests in economy class. And honestly: I enjoyed every moment!
I was astonished how much I learned in these few hours. Deciding things in the office will be different after really feeling the decisions on board. Thank you to the amazing crew, the lovely guests and everyone involved for making this experience possible!”
To continue on with his commendable streak, Ritter answered a lot of questions from his LinkedIn followers. Here’s some of the more interesting ones:
Angelina M. asks:
“What are the specific actions derived from this event that will be applicable to the company to improve it and in which area? One massive issue plaguing Lufthansa are the delays and unreliability of the flight departure/arrival times which erode customer trust… and patience.”
“Just a small example: I mentioned in my post that the food on the menu cards didn’t match the food that was delivered. We will have this fixed. However, I totally agree with you: the aviation industry suffers and as a whole system we will have to fix that in order to regain the full trust of guests (and crews alike). We are working hard on that!”
Christopher B. asks:
“Congratulations Jens for getting into the thick of it and sharing time with the part of the company that spends the most time with the customer. What one thing would you like to see improved for your crews so they can continue to excel at their jobs?”
“What an interesting question! Two things, actually. On the one hand it is all about stability and reliability. Because I think our crews already do a great job. However, the aviation industry suffers from lack of staff, broken supply chains, lack of aircraft and many other problems. If we fix this – their job would be a lot easier. On the other hand I think that everyone likes working if they feel being seen and appreciated and psychologically safe. This is something else I am trying hard to improve! #WeTakeOffToTakeCare”
Even a flight attendant for EasyJet commended him. João Palma Costa, flight attendant at Easyjet wrote, “Amazing! Amazing! Amazing! All airline CEO’s should go onboard and take a close look in ‘our job’. Congrats, Mr Jens Ritter. ✌🏼”
I’ve been fortunate to fly Lufthansa multiple times including on their inaugural A380 flight from Frankfurt to San Francisco, which was a big deal and had Lufthansa’s then-CEO onboard.
I also flew Lufthansa a couple of months ago with my family from Naples to Munich to Toronto. The flight crew on the first flight was so outstanding that I wrote about our experience, which you can read all about here.
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