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Hard labour at 35,000 feet: A reconsideration of emotional demands in airline service work

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This study offers a contemporary perspective on the factors affecting the emotional self-management of airline service agents within an increasingly challenging work environment. The methodological approach combined a review of the contemporary literature on 'emotion' work with exploratory primary research involving longitudinal focus groups and 'life history' interviews (Ladkin 2004) with purposively selected respondents. The findings suggested that intensifying job demands and deteriorating working conditions continue to increase the alienating psychological costs of performing emotional labour for air cabin crew. These costs appear greater where 'emotional reciprocity' is absent and emotional dissonance is evident. Some crew, however, continue to make emotional effort autonomously and spontaneously, and these incidences appear linked to personality trait characteristics and positive service orientation. This work offers a rounded contextualization of respondents' life experiences with their emotional self-management challenges at work. Future research could further explore the 'reciprocity dynamic' as an enabler of service agents' emotional self-management.
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Keywords: cabin crew; emotion effort; emotional labour; emotional reciprocity; emotional self-management; occupational health

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Brighton

Publication date: 2012-08-08

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  • Hospitality & Society is an international multidisciplinary social sciences journal focusing upon hospitality and exploring its connections with wider social and cultural processes and structures. The journal welcomes submissions from various disciplines and aims to be an interactive forum expanding frontiers of knowledge and contributing to the literature on hospitality social science. Articles that stimulate debate, discussion and exchange across disciplines are welcomed, as well as review essays or short topical pieces that are provocative and problematic in nature.
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