Japan Airline Giant ANA Holdings Creates Manual for Handling Cases of Customer Harassment of Staff

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
ANA passengers planes are seen at Haneda Airport in Ota Ward, Tokyo.

Airline giant ANA Holdings Inc. has created an employee manual for responding in cases of harassment by customers, such as making irrational demands or badgering staff, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Up to now, it has been left up to the employee’s discretion on how they handle the incident, but to better protect its staff, the company has devised a slate of uniform rules.

As there are a number of airlines providing services at airports, ANA Holdings plans to collaborate with its counterparts so that the responses do not vary.

It is often not clear whether an act of customer harassment constitutes an unlawful action, and many companies have been struggling over how to respond.

ANA Holdings’ manual clarifies the border line between customer harassment and proper complaints, and encourages staff to remain resolute in not giving in to unruly customers’ repeated demands.

According to ANA Holdings, there were 288 reported cases of customer harassment in fiscal 2023. Many involved verbal abuse over the phone, violent behavior in airports and sexual harassment inside plane cabins. The manual spells out measures for each case.

The manual makes it a basic condition that two or more employees should respond to acts of customer harassment, and voice or video records should be obtained with consent and kept as a precaution should an incident with a customer later escalate into an illegal action.

“Acts of customer harassment also make other passengers uncomfortable,” said Yoshiko Miyashita, chief of the company’s customer service promotion division. “We make efforts to prevent cases by polishing our ability to properly respond.”

Damages from customer harassment have been increasing annually and becoming a serious problem.

In a 2022 survey by the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) on about 1,000 company employees, 36.9% of respondents said that customer harassment had increased over the past five years. Of those who said they themselves were victims of harassment, 38.2% said going into the workplace made them depressed.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry published a manual in 2022 on countermeasures companies should take in cases of customer harassment, leading more to take appropriate actions.

For example, Tokyo Metro Co. adopted guidelines in March this year which stipulate that in cases deemed to be customer harassment, its employees can refuse to further respond in principle. East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) announced a similar policy in April.

The Tokyo metropolitan government plans to enact a preventative ordinance.