How not to communicate to flight passengers

So I’m waiting for a flight, checked in for departure home at 4.40pm, a 60 minute flight. All good.

I make some calls, check some emails, write some replies. I talk to the kids. It’s quiet. Normal. Unremarkable in fact.


Bing bong

Startled out of my reverie in which I was admiring the homeliness and inherent comfort of small town airports (not really), I listened to the slightly awkward announcement. It went something like this…

“Ahem, passengers flying on flight to Wellington are advised that at present we are trying to clear a bunch of birds from the flight area. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a delay of your flight due to the bunch of birds we are trying to clear from the flight area.”

A couple of people chuckled.

I imagined a bunch of birds much like a bunch of flowers or grapes and had a mild snort at the image of the pilot trying to clear them. Worse was the idea of flight control clearing them for takeoff. Sadly, we didn’t really understand the implications of what he was saying, until this one…

Bing bong


“Passengers are advised that we are having difficulty with the aforementioned birds, in that we are now struggling with a bird in the cockpit.”  

To his credit, he sounded slightly embarrassed, which was good because in terms of problem solving ability the much vaunted bird bunch clearing crew had clearly surpassed their own expectations and managed, in the entirety of the airport, to get a bird in the only place they didn’t need one.

I now had images of roosters fighting it out over the control panel and wondered how it came to be called a cockpit in the first place. The bird bunch clearing crew looked on.

Someone mentioned the two cats they had in the hold.


Bing bong

“Um, a further update on our bird situation. We would like to advise that problem with the bird in the cockpit is unresolved. We have not been able to catch the bird yet although we are trying.”  

So now I’ve got slightly quizzical looks from other passengers clearly with the same mental picture of a small cockpit, a bird flying around, and the bird bunch clearing crew trying valiantly, heroically even, to catch the bird.

It zigs and zags.

They dive, the crowd roars!

MISS! The crowd groans.

Left then right. Bobbing weaving ducking feinting.

It’s a battle of wills, of strategy, history in the making. They’ll talk about it in hushed tones for years.

But, despite their death-defying efforts they have been, to date, unsuccessful.

Of course, another way of saying this is “How hard can it be?”. I mean, really…


Shut the door, turn the lights low, get a blanket. COME ON! 

Bing bong

“Still trying to get the bird from the cockpit, working on this and will keep you posted.”

Then this. Oh this was just too good. Fellow passenger, lovely English chap, a vet even, offers his services. If they’re just not having any luck, devilish things birds in cockpits, probably not in the manual I daresay, I’m happy to come in and catch the thing for you, no fuss you know.

Probably had a little experience, what with being a vet and all. May have once temped for bird bunch clearing crews back home.

Sadly, they didn’t need his assistance. Guess they had it under control. Staff at the counters are noticeably absent. In fact, looking around, there are no staff to be seen.

The vet is politely rebuffed. Guess his overseas credentials didn’t check out. Still no staff.

Now I’m even more suspicious. Sauntering dead casual up to the cleaning lady I ask her where the staff are. She doesn’t know. She can’t see them either. All we have is the guy on the mike.

I ask her if she’d cook us all a feed in the event we end up crashing at her place for the night. Could she put us up? I’m quite partial to a good feed I mention. There’s a beautiful moment where she’s clearly considering my offer before she laughingly declines and tells me where the little bell is to call the staff. She’s conspiratorial. It’s perfect. 

Then the truth came out.

Bing bong


“Um, passengers are advised that we haven’t managed to catch the bird yet. It’s gone behind the control panels and we can’t get it out.”


Bing bong

The vet looks bemused in a lovely English way. The teenager looks stunned and it was a joy to watch her face remain completely immobile, slack-jawed, eyes bulging, gum sat proudly on her tongue while her thumb moved at light speed texting her entire Facebook team the news. I feel like I’ve discovered a new species.

People made calls. People sent texts.


Bing bong

“Um, we’re still trying to get the bird from behind the panels and it won’t come out. We might have to wait for it to come out in its own time.”

Ok, so maybe I paraphrased a little, but you get the point.

What time exactly would that be then?

I rang the bell.

She poked her head over the balcony. We exchanged smiles. It was hard not to imagine her tipping over. She didn’t look like she’d been trying to catch a bird. I wondered if they’d used all their substitutes and player exchanges yet.

“How is it then” I asked.

“Not looking good” she replied. “We’re just trying to work on what we say” she said.


Bing bong

“Flight cancelled”. Impressive.

Ok, I paraphrased that too. 

There’s now a queue of people frazzled with kids, luggage and the like. People have missed connecting flights. Other arrangements have to be made.

So here’s the take home bit

Keep talking to us. Keep us included – we’ll like you better.

Tell us what’s happening – we’ll figure out we’re not going anywhere and be less grumpy at you.

Give us stuff – yes, it’s buying our favor, but you can use it if we cut you some slack. Give the kids something, buy us a coffee. Really, cost to you a couple hundred bucks.

Why not say something like…

“Hey, sorry you guys, but you’re not going to believe this. You know the bird? Well, the thing flew in, buzzed about and hid because it was scared, and it’s got stuck behind the controls. We’ve got to pull a few things out to get it out, and it’s a bit involved so, while you wait (you’re welcome) coffee is on us (as opposed to the egg we all saw). 

And because it’s a plane, well you don’t just go yanking things out so we’ve got to do it carefully. I should warn you though, that there’s a good chance we might not be able to do this quickly enough for you.  

So what we’ve done is book some rooms and food next door in case we need to use them, everything on us. Hopefully we won’t need them, but just to let you know we’re thinking of you.

P.S. Normal blog posting will resume shortly.

Impressive words to drop into the morning coffee chat

Bird bunch clearing crew

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About brendonbclark

Hi, I’m Brendon, but people usually call me B. I’ve a Masters degree in psychology, postgraduate qualification in mental health, and qualifications in counselling, professional supervision and adult education. I consult, speak and blog. Join me, you can subscribe for free.
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