Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Flight Attendant Hero, or Flight Attendant Embarrassment?

Sure, we all know that air travel is getting more and more frustrating over the last few years. We can look back and see where the trend started when airlines started to charge for checked luggage. Being over the required weight by one pound the airlines will charge you more, or having more than one or two bags will cost more too. This often starts at the ticket counter when checking in.

After forking over more money than expected, then you have to go through the TSA security checkpoint where you can see them frisking little old grandmothers with walkers, or find them now keeping the photos from the new body image scanners, so it's only fair to understand why passengers are getting more and more frustrated before they even get to the plane.

Planes are becoming more full. No more extended leg room, cramped seats, no free food, blankets, pillows, or magazines that use to be included in the cost of the ticket. However, getting onto the plane is becoming a nightmare due to the airlines charging for the checked bags. So it's a hassle to find space for your carry-on since everyone is bringing everything onto the plane. Small bags that should be placed under the seat are being placed into the over-head, making it difficult for the last group of passengers to find space for their bags. Even some arguments that come about with stowage of items in seatback pockets. (Stowage of items in seatbacks)

Once everyone is situated, now we have to worry about those electronic devices being turned off at time of departure. I've written about these U.S. regulations before (Why don't airlines allow cell phone use after aircraft door is closed), yet passengers ignore the regulations and the flight attendants now have to become policemen telling people to turn off their devices. When those passengers don't listen, then it becomes a very frustrating situation for both flight attendant and passenger.

Depending on where you are sitting, your first choice of food may not be available, or the limited Buy On Board snacks are gone and you are really hungry. It's cold on the airplane, but the airlines have  remove the pillows & blankets, or they have started to charge for them. So your family vacation or trip hasn't really started, but it's starting off very rough, and the plane hasn't even left the gate. Hopefully, there isn't a maintenance delay, or weather delay, but if you know anything about flying, hope that you aren't flying out of JFK at "Rush-Hour" where you could be taxiing for over an hour before take-off! 

Finally the plane is in the air, and the you then find out your personal TV isn't working, or the entertainment device given to you in-flight is inoperable, or the kid sitting behind you constantly kicks the back of your seat. How about that screaming child, or the overly loud and obnoxious passengers sitting across the aisle hitting on the flight attendants or buying more and more alcohol and getting drunker as the flight goes on.

Finally, you arrive at your destination and you just want to get off the plane, but now everything is happening in reverse. You are now waiting for your gate to open up and the flight has just been long and tiring and you just want to get off the plane. While the plane is sitting there, in the 'penalty box' you decide to get your bag out of the over-head bin (which you are not allowed to do because you don't know when the plane is going to move) yet, you get up to retrieve your bag. The flight attendant informs you to leave your carry-on stowed, and to remain seated as you are still on an 'active taxi-way'. Yet, you ignore the request, so the flight attendant comes to you and again asks you to take your seat, but this time, you don't like their demeanor as they have now singled you out in front of everyone and you yelled expletives at the flight attendant.

With all the other things that have happened in-flight (or even prior flights) the flight attendant finally breaks, gets on the P.A. and continues to berate you using the same expletives to the entire plane. Now, the flight attendant decides that he is through working as a flight attendant, pulls the emergency slide, grabs a couple of beers and jumps.

Many people see someone who has just cracked under pressure and couldn't deal with the stress, others hail him as a hero because he finally did what so many other flight attendants have wanted to do, but didn't, or is this someone who has flown under the radar far too long and should have never been given a flight attendant job.

For me personally, I find the whole thing an embarrassment to the flight attendant profession, but others find him a true Saint. Showing what flight attendants have to go through on an almost daily ritual of being berated by passengers over the smallest of things that are out of their personal control. Showing that not only airlines, but passengers often don't see the role of a flight attendant as a true Safety Professional.