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Japanese aviation giant ANA Holdings is creating a guide to handling cases of customer harassment of staff

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

Airline ANA Holdings Inc. has created an employee manual for responding to cases of customer harassment, such as making irrational demands or harassing staff, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Until now, it has been left up to the employee how to deal with the incident, but to better protect its staff, the company has drawn up a set of uniform rules.

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

It is often not clear whether an act of customer harassment is an unlawful act, and many businesses struggle with how to respond.

The ANA Holdings manual clarifies the line between customer harassment and legitimate complaints, and encourages staff to remain resolute and not give in to the repeated demands of unruly customers.

According to ANA Holdings, there were 288 reported incidents of customer harassment in the 2023 financial year. Many of these involved verbal abuse over the telephone, violent behavior in airports and sexual harassment in aircraft cabins. The manual describes measures for each case.

The manual makes it a basic requirement that two or more employees must respond to customer harassment, and that voice or video recordings must be obtained with consent and retained as a precaution in case an incident with a customer later escalates to an illegal action.

“Acts of customer harassment also make other passengers feel uncomfortable,” said Yoshiko Miyashita, head of the company’s customer service promotion department. “We are doing our best to prevent cases by improving our ability to respond well.”

The damage caused by customer harassment is increasing every year and is becoming a serious problem.

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

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

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

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government plans to issue a preventive ordinance.

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