International travel has its share of complications, from customs inspections to in-flight language barriers — if no interpreting service is available, passengers may not be able to communicate with the flight crew.
To address this issue, several airlines arrange for interpreters to be present on many flights, alongside translations of written materials like menus and safety instructions.
With some airlines struggling to keep up with competitors, adding interpreting services is one way to stand out, and there are a few reasons for this.
Interpreting Increases Customer Loyalty
Airlines that offer international flights are the ones most likely to provide interpreting services for passengers. However, even domestic flights may benefit from offering this service, depending on the languages most commonly spoken by passengers on these routes.
When there are professional interpreters on the flight, passengers are likely to appreciate the gesture. Even those who speak English well enough to understand flight directions not in their native language are likely to feel more comfortable when interpreting services are provided, which makes for a better flight experience for both passengers and crew.
Plus, some airlines go the extra mile by even teaching flight attendants how to properly greet residents of other countries without offending or confusing them. For example, when Air France sends flights to China, all announcements are made in several languages, and crews have been taught to properly greet Chinese passengers.
When airlines make these extra efforts, passengers often remember, frequently leading them to continue using the same company for their airline needs due to their comfort with them. After all, not every airline makes the effort of interpreting the directions provided by the pilot and flight attendants.
Comply with Certain Regulations
In fact, sometimes interpreting is a necessity for airlines, depending on which country they are located in, and which areas they fly to.
For example, some countries, such as Canada, have multiple official languages, which means federally-affiliated institutions (including at least one major airline) are required to provide services in both English and French. Otherwise, lawsuits can result, making interpreting a smart investment.
Sometimes, it is a matter of safety. Passengers need to know what to do in the event of turbulence, flight delays or bigger issues. Interpreting instructions can help prepare the vast majority of passengers, whether they speak English or the language that prevails in the country of origin or destination.
Complement Translation Services
Interpreting is one way to help most passengers understand what is going on, but the efforts to accommodate those who speak another language should not stop there. Translation of various documents on the plane is also important.
This includes safety signs, in-flight magazines and customer service cards that passengers may be asked to fill out. Some airlines even provide in-flight movies in different languages, or at least with translated subtitles and/or captions that the majority of the passengers can understand.
These details tend to appeal to those who speak a language other than English, especially during long flights when they may be bored with a movie or magazine they cannot fully understand.
Just as it is essential that airlines use only professional interpreting services, they should also stick to professional translation assistance. Providing incorrect translations could be offensive and perhaps dangerous for passengers. At the very least, this would be embarrassing for airlines, so it makes sense to ensure that both interpreting and translation services are accurate and professional.