I don’t know how many times I’ve observed passengers aboard an aircraft who make the flight attendants angry and then come off the plane feeling vaguely upset and disconcerted. The number is probably in the hundreds, though, and I always ended up asking those passengers – purely out of curiosity because I love observing the human condition — why they wanted to have a bad flight, even though they probably weren’t aware that what they were doing was so irritating to the attendants.
I came across a travel article the other day that spoke to this issue of annoying flight attendants. It took a look at the things that just about every passenger will do at one time or another to get on the very last nerve of an already-overstressed FA (that’s what we tended to call them in the airlines). For sure, most passengers don’t do this consciously, and probably don’t even stop to consider how it might affect those around them, but they’re out there and need to be discussed.
What many of us who work or have worked in the airline industry can tell you is that flight attendants aren’t creatures who suffer foolish or rude behavior easily, and that there are a great many things they can do to make that little five hour cross-country New York to Los Angeles jaunt just a bit more uncomfortable for the passenger who happens to irk them.
For instance, showing up to board the flight at the very last moment and then loudly demanding that space be found in the already-closed (and likely full) overhead storage bins is a quick way to ensure those same bags will end up checked into the cargo holds, where they could end up taking a very roundabout way to the same destination in which the plane is heading. And it might take 2 or more days to find their way there, unfortunately. Until they arrive, they’re just so much lost luggage, sorry to say.
Flight attendants have a myriad of ways in which to subtly torment unruly, boorish or rude passengers, who are stuck in a long aluminum tube with nowhere to run and hide once the FAs turn their full attention to making life as miserable as possible — all the while remaining smiling and polite — for the poor miscreant who drew their wrath.
So here are a couple of things to keep in mind when it comes to ensuring your flight goes as smoothly as possible:
– Remember always that FAs are there as a safety and security measure more than anything else. By all accounts, the flight attendant crew who worked the cabin of the U.S. Air flight that had to land in the Hudson River several months back performed magnificently and with utmost professionalism. They’re there to save your behind — not kiss it — in other words.
– There are many ways to get the attention of the flight attendants, most of whom really do want you to have an enjoyable flight. Shouting at them or ordering them about like galley rowers usually won’t get you very far. If you have a complaint, handle it with them just as professionally as you’d like them to act with you in the same circumstance.
Let’s face it: Times are tough and airlines are struggling to fill seats and keep what customers they have. They not only want you to fly with them but they’re also putting a lot of pressure on flight attendants to act like true flight professionals while also extending even greater levels of customer service than has ever been attempted before, back in the days when an airline could charge what it wanted in terms of fares and even get away with spotty service, in most instances.
Now given all that, maybe flying a mile in an FA’s shoes — just as the good ones do their best at all times to walk a mile in yours — might go a long way towards ensuring you have a safe and enjoyable flight. After all, who wants to suddenly be relocated to the “crying baby section” due to an inadvertent “seating mix-up?” Trust me, I’ve seen it happen.
Tony Guerra, retired military officer and former airline manager of nearly 8 years service, currently blogs on all things airline industry-related at his website “Airline Insiders,” which can be found at http://airlineinsidersblog.com. He also writes copy and is authoring a fictional account of a week at a busy airline hub which is due out later this year. He can be reached through his personal website at http://www.tonyguerraonline.com. He also is proprietor of, and writes all copy for, over 15 blogs and websites (and counting), leading us to believe he has absolutely no life outside the Web.
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