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On Sunday, I wrote about my recent experience on a United Airlines flight where one of the flight attendants sat on the galley floor having a meal while watching videos on her iPad. My reporting on what I saw struck a nerve with a lot of people both inside and outside of the industry, so I thought I’d share some additional thoughts.
Over 400 people have taken the time to comment on the article or one of the social media posts. Opinions have run the gamut from calling me entitled and saying that the flight attendant had every right to do what she did to others that felt she was not doing her job or helping her coworkers. One even pointed out that watching videos on a personal device and having Atlas boxes on the floor were FAA violations. I’ve enjoyed the discourse and thank everyone for interacting whether it was good, bad, or ugly. Let me share some additional context and my thoughts on airline crews. These are just my thoughts and I am just one passenger, but I write this blog so I can share my thoughts, tips, and tricks. Here are my thoughts on flight attendants.
It’s Not An Easy Job, Nor As Glamorous As Many Assume
The reality is that this is no longer Pan Am in the 1960s (and if you watched the TV show, a lot of that was sensationalized). Flight attendants are stressed, COVID made it worse, and like many industries they are asked to do more with less. Some have adapted and continue to show up every day with a smile or at least a desire to make sure their passengers have a good flight. Others are there to complain and be miserable. They go out of their way to do as little as possible and leave their colleagues to pick up the slack (thankfully, this is a small minority).
Flight attendants need to keep a few hundred people safe, prevent them from getting too rowdy, and make sure that everyone gets along as a metal tube hurls through the air at 600 miles per hour. That is coupled with customers who expect to be treated like royalty and talk down to them. Despite what some commenters feel, I am not one of those passengers. I am always respectful. I like to chat with the flight crew. We trade stories and generally have a good time. I am not demanding. I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t complain to them about the poor catering. That’s out of their hands. “Please” and “thank you” are always said and we get along swimmingly.
Flight Attendants Are People and Deserve Respect
Flight attendants, just like everyone else, deserve respect and kindness. But, that doesn’t mean that they can do whatever they want at 35,000 feet. Most flight attendants I have flown with over several million miles in the air have ranged from polite to downright awesome. However, there have been some bad apples in the bunch (just like in any industry). The woman sitting on the galley floor was one of these and really should be reprimanded, retrained, or shown the door for both her work ethic and the way she treated her coworkers and the passengers.
Providing Poor Service is Not Okay
I could tell from the moment I boarded that this flight attendant was going to have a bad attitude. There was no greeting from her as she hid in the galley. Her colleague asked her about providing predeparture beverages and she told her they didn’t have to do them every flight and that she could give a passenger water if requested. I was sitting in seat 1B, so I could hear all of this as it was said. She rushed through setting up trays and had them haphazardly stacked around the galley. Warm towels were not provided. When meals were served, she did not warm the rolls or the cookies. Trays were plopped together while she wore gloves (that she also used to open the lavatory door multiple times).
After the trays were cleared, she took two Atlas boxes and made herself a table and chair. She then sat there eating a pasta meal, drinking a Diet Coke, and watching videos on her iPad without headphones. It was loud enough that all of us in row one heard her iPad. She sat there for over 30 minutes before she got up and put away her tray. During that time, the other flight attendant was still serving the cabin and had to work around her. She at one point would not move and told the flight attendant to make a passenger wait for a beverage. The other flight attendant did her job well above what she needed to and went to the back galley to fetch a can while the first one stayed seated. She did not come out of the galley once and even chided her coworker when she opened the curtain to do her job.
I’m Paying For A Certain Level of Service
I buy First and Business Class tickets. I rarely use upgrade certificates or points for myself and buy the tickets. With that comes some basic expectations including: a comfortable seat, operational Wi-Fi and power outlets, a decent meal and drinks, and friendly/efficient service. There is a premium paid to sit in the front of the plane and these are some of the perks that should come with it. If people don’t think that these are reasonable requests then we have a problem with what is advertised versus reality. The image above shows what is advertised by United (it’s on their site). It lists all of the benefits I did above. These should be provided when a premium seat is purchased.
Don’t Misquote Me
I never said the flight attendant should not take a break, nor did I say that she should not eat. Spending more time on a break than working was wrong. Using her iPad to watch videos while working was wrong. I get that schedules are tight and that flight attendants are not given time to always eat. Should they be allowed to? Absolutely. Should they sit on the galley floor and block their coworkers from working? No way. If you think that this behavior is acceptable, you’re part of the problem. I will never say that flight attendants don’t deserve respect, but they are also at work and should not be making it unpleasant for their coworkers or passengers.
Anthony’s Take: Most flight attendants do a fine job with providing good service and wanting to make the experience good for all passengers. But, some are there for themselves and give others a bad name. And, when I see that I will always speak up.
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