Has Air Travel Reached An All-Time Low? Maybe
Everyone loves to bitch about lousy flight attendants, but I find myself feeling sorry for them more often than not. I mean, really, how many people do you know who would cheerily be the whipping boy for every passenger on a delayed or canceled flight? It can’t be fun. And we all know they’re not paid well.
That said, air travel isn’t cheap these days, and it’s certainly not pleasant, so it doesn’t really seem like much to ask for a little customer service. Two blog posts I read today got me thinking about the relationship between passengers and flight attendants and how, when it comes down to it, neither side wins.
First, after the 10th Facebook Friend “liked” a TechCrunch post about a particularly hellacious flight, I gave in and read it. It was a fun read so I gave it a thumbs-up “like,” too. Who doesn’t have a story about United or Delta wrecking their day, or an airline staffer seeming to take pleasure in lost baggage or a missed connection? It was easy to empathize and frankly, it also made me feel better that this guy (Michael Arrington) had been treated just as badly as a first-class customer as I usually am in coach.
One line in particular jumped out at me, though:
” If only a flight attendant, or baggage person, or whoever, would just commiserate with me for one moment,” Arrington writes. “Maybe smile and say they’ll try their best to help. But until all that bad energy is gone, and the airlines have employees that don’t stare daggers at their customers, I’m out.”
I noticed it because it seemed to be the exact same sort of thinking that led Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater to jump ship yesterday. Arrington actually cites Jet Blue as one of the airlines that’s doing it right, that is making its employees happy because happy employees give good customer service. Unfortunately, nothing can make up for shitty passengers, not even decent pay and the industry’s best-designed uniform.
Here’s what went down, according to the Wall Street Journal:
JetBlue Flight 1052 from Pittsburgh had taxied to a stop at Terminal 5, Gate C around noon Monday when flight attendant Steven Slater, 38, was struck in the head with luggage that a passenger was trying to unload from an overhead compartment, according to an airport official with knowledge of the incident.
Slater demanded an apology from the passenger, the official said, but the passenger refused. The two argued before the passenger told Slater to “f— off”, the official said. The official said that Slater then got on the plane’s PA system and directed that same obscenity at all the passengers and added that he especially meant it for the man who refused to apologize.
Slater is alleged to have then activated the plane’s inflatable emergency slide, grabbed two beers from the galley, then slid down the chute, the official said.
Like Arrington on the passenger side, Slater just wanted to be treated like a human, to be shown a little common decency. You hit someone on the head with your luggage, you apologize, no? And on the flip side, if, as in Arrington’s story, an elderly Indian gentleman tells you he has medication in his bag that you’ve lost, and that he needs to take it right away, the appropriate response is not to grin and tell him to go find an all-night pharmacy.
Has flying gotten so bad in this country that both passengers and airline staff just wish they were anywhere else? It seems like it. But if that’s true, where do we go from here? The old “no place to go but up” adage would be a cute way to end a blog post on air travel, but unfortunately it looks like it’s only going to stay the same. Or get worse.
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