Some Airline People Have Saved My Day

December 13, 2009

in Flying Hell Commentary

Without a doubt, I have had my share of bad, even unbelievably bad, experiences in the ugly skies. There was the time I helped push an airport van through snow in Austin, Texas (snow? yes, it happens) and when we got to the airport, with all the passengers seated and ready to go, we learned there was no flight crew. On that day, it was ten hours from the front door of the hotel to my house in the DC area.

After 9-11, things got markedly worse, just about everywhere in the airline business. The more strict minded “homeroom monitor” sort at the airlines decided to use “security” as an excuse for being rude and not helping any passenger. Rules ruled. Like the police officer in Dallas who yelled recently at the man with a dying mother-in-law, many airline employees decided they could reject one’s appeals for help based on “attitude” or the tone of your voice. I have a relatively deep voice trained by long time work in broadcasting, so it is difficult for me to find a tone that would be pleasing. I think perhaps I should study the “supplicant tone” to survive these days.

Having said all of this, I want to post a hardy thank you to the few airline employees who have tried to help and have resolved some problems along the way. Like the time just after Hurricane Katrina when I spent 20 minutes beside a windswept highway changing my reservation, only to learn that nothing had been changed when I arrived for my flight home. Two ticket agents in Dallas not only worked to get me a flight out, they gave me a partial voucher for a hotel stay. It was not a grand, life saving moment, but it was appreciated. One of the agents was worried that her supervisor would be on her case for spending too much time helping me, so I made a show out of acting like the angry, impatient passenger. Seemed to please everyone.

There have been many other small kindnesses through my half million or so miles in the air and I shall always be grateful to those few airline employees who have not flipped over into permanent anger and disappointment in their jobs and with the public. Thank you.

One problem that comes through in these postings is that most people these days seem to be expecting a bad experience and, as a result, anything that happens is turned into a major event. Of course, travel and flying are stressful events and, at the other end most flights, travelers have people and business associates who are depending on their arrival. The next time you get angry, however, remember those people who were on the hundreds of other flights on 9-11 whose planes were forced to land when all US traffic was grounded. They made it through, didn’t they? Everyone’s appointments were canceled that day and, when it was over, everyone just picked up where they left off and went back to work.

We have lost our civility on both sides of this problem but, from my experience, I would say the airline workers have lost more of it than the passengers. Problem is, out of every one hundred thousand passengers, there are bound to be a few hundred people who are rude, thoughtless, inconsiderate and, overall, simply unaware and uneducated about how to conduct themselves while flying. A sense of humor is required. When it doesn’t impinge too directly on me, I laugh at the behavior of others. I only have to spend a few hours in their company and, these days, not that frequently.

Don’t always be looking for something to get angry about. Don’t always assume that everything you see or experience is the result of complete rudeness on the part of someone else. Don’t always assume that the airline is completely indifferent to its mistakes.

I would like the airline employees to know that I am a highly experienced international traveler who knows how to behave and cooperate for the good of all. Problem is, when many of them see any passenger, they just see what they want to see.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

chris December 13, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Very well said!!!! People just blow up way to easily these days.


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