Perfecting The PA

As a passenger, it is incredibly frustrating when pilots make a Passenger Announcement (PA) and it is inaudible or they speak too quickly. The Passenger Announcement (PA) is the primary way pilots have to communicate with passengers directly and it is done, 99% of the time, from the flight deck with no visual contact or feedback. It is an important part of how we transmit routine and emergency information to the cabin and can go a long way to relaxing nervous fliers. Remember on average, 30% of passengers on every flight are nervous fliers and a clear, concise PA conveys the right impression to the passengers. Used effectively it can be invaluable in commanding authority, and keeping both passengers and crew informed of progress. It also goes a long way to establishing a relationship and a form of rapport which can powerfully enforce your airline’s brand. 

Good use of the PA will promote confidence and professionalism, however it is a double edged sword, so prepare before you start to speak.

What Makes a Good PA?

The language you use must reflect the carrier you are flying for. If operating in the UK, or for a UK operator then use of good non-slang English must be used. Local colloquialisms will likely not be understood by some on board and should be avoided. If you are operating for a non-english carrier and you are able to do so, I would recommend delivering you PA first in the local language, then in English.

The style of the PA must be professional, delivered with authority, clear and concise. The messaging should be tailored to your passengers, for example the PA given to a London – Frankfurt, Monday morning flight full of business professionals would differ from that given to a Manchester – Florida flight during school summer holidays. 

Pace yourself, remember they cannot see you and a pause for what feels like an eternity to you, will not be noticed by the passengers. Speak calmly and avoid industry terminology like “Flight Level 380” or “Mach decimal 81”. Keeping the terminology relatable will inform, rather than confuse your passengers. If you have an accent do not try to hide it, however if it is broad remember to slow down your delivery a fraction. It is also true to not be something you are not. If you are not comfortable delivering the news of a delay in the cabin, deliver it from the flight deck then walk the cabin (in full uniform). The use of jokes is also fraught with danger, one because if you are not comfortable then don’t try it, and second there is always risk of causing unintended offence.

How To Prepare a PA

You may have been given a PA booklet to work from as a go-by, or you may be comfortable making up your own on the spot – either way take a couple of minutes to prepare it before you start speaking. This will avoid general mistakes and “umms” which sound incredibly unprofessional. 

Points to consider could be: 

  • Cities / landmarks along the route (if visible)
  • Workout local time of arrival if landing in a different time zone 
  • Review the weather and convert into non-aviation speak
  • Tailor the PA to the type of passenger onboard
  • Time until seat belts will be switched on for arrival, to allow use of toilets prior to landing
  • Take a second to make sure you have the radio management panel in the correct setting, therefore not delivering your PA to ATC or the North Atlantic. We’ve all done it!
  • Leave a delay of 2-3 seconds when picking up the PA handset as there is a pause before the system normally connects to the cabin. 
  • Listen out to when the cabin crew are delivering their briefs and work in with their announcements to avoid interrupting. 
  • Be comfortable to release the transmit button for a cough or pause if you need more time.

What to avoid?

Items to avoid when delivering a PA include: 

  • Eating or chewing gum while speaking
  • Constantly apologising. You can say it once, make it sincere, informative and move on
  • Do not assign blame to other members of the team
  • Do not use jargon or aviation industry terminology
  • The use of emotive or danger words. i.e. Say “We experienced an engine issue which has been safely handled by the crew” rather than “There was a sudden engine failure with severe damage…”
  • Do not be contradictory

Types Of PA’s

There are also various types of PA’s to deliver, both routine and non-routine. The former would be your: welcome on board, cruise and arrival PA’s. The non-routine are more tricky because by definition are not practiced as often and will contain a developing situation. Such PA’s are: bag removal from the hold, delays (both departure and arrival), turbulence, diversion, aircraft technical event and go-around – but there are many more. 

For non-normal PA’s the following structure may be of use, NITS:

N- Nature (What has happened)

I- Intentions (What is the plan)

T- Time (How long until landing, the next event, or until you come back with more information)

S- Special Considerations (Will there be anything unusual that they may notice? What do you want them to do to support?) 

The type and severity of the situation will guide you on your tone and what information to share, but each PA has a unique purpose and should be treated as conversation with your customers and an opportunity to positively reinforce your company brand. It is worthwhile also considering while you will have flown the route many times before, there will be passengers who have never flown with you before on each flight, this is a wonderful opportunity for you to add customer satisfaction, to ensure they fly with you again. 

Conclusion

Professional, well delivered PA’s take time to learn, practice them, not in the 5 minutes before you deliver them, but at home or in the car – it will pay dividends. It is an important communication channel with your cabin crew and passengers alike and goes a long way to instilling cabin confidence and sharing relevant flight information. They will also enhance your customers experience if done well and may support future bookings, particularly when adverse situations are handled well. Write down bullet points, or have a generic script in your flight bag that you can use for a structure.


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