Here’s a letter from an unknown flight attendant that touches on almost every part of the flight experience that frequent and no-so-frequent fliers know all too well.
It is a reminder in this day of flight crews being booed and sued, and more and more canceled flights that the front line of pilots and flight attendants are as much victims of bad management as we, the passengers, are.
As this flight attendant so aptly says, “direct your hostility and frustrations in the direction where they will be most effective: The customer service department. They are the ones equipped to handle your complaint and implement procedures for change.”
When you do interact with your flight attendant, a smile, a kind word and a thank you go a long way — further than many of us know.
To the Flying Public: We’re sorry.
We’re sorry we have no pillows.
We’re sorry we’re out of blankets.
We’re sorry the airplane is too cold.
We’re sorry the airplane is too hot.
We’re sorry the overhead bins are full.
We’re sorry we have no closet space for your oversized bag.
We’re sorry that’s not the seat you wanted.
We’re sorry there’s a restless toddler/overweight/offensive smelling
passenger seated next to you.
We’re sorry the plane is full and there’s no other seats available.
We’re sorry you didn’t get your upgrade.
We’re sorry that guy makes you uncomfortable because he “looks like a terrorist”.
We’re sorry there’s a thunderstorm and we can’t take off.
We’re sorry we don’t know when it will stop.
We’re sorry you’re crammed into a space so small that if you were an animal PETA would protest.
We’re sorry a Super 80 has no music or video entertainment for your 3 hour flight.
We’re sorry we ran out of your favorite soda.
We’re sorry there’s no more sandwiches.
We’re sorry that Budweiser costs $6.
We’re sorry we don’t have diapers for your baby.
We’re sorry we don’t have milk for same baby.
We’re sorry you can’t hang out by the cockpit door waiting to use the bathroom. We’re sorry you can’t hang out at the back of the airplane.
We’re sorry you have to sit down and fasten your seatbelt.
We’re sorry you have to put your seat up for landing.
We’re sorry we don’t know when we’re going to land.
We’re sorry we don’t know whether your plane to (substitute any city in the world) will be waiting for you when we land.
We’re sorry we’ve been diverted because we ran out of gas waiting to land.
We’re sorry for these and so many other things that we have absolutely no control over but which we are held accountable for EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Please understand. Flight attendants are not the enemy. We share your space. More than anyone – we want to have a nice, pleasant travel experience.
There is a reason behind everything we ask you to do. It may be a FAA directive. It may be security related. It may be a company procedure.
We don’t just make stuff up. We don’t spend 8 weeks at the flight academy learning how to pour a Coke. There are many things that flight attendants are watching for constantly on every flight FOR YOUR SAFETY.
It’s not because we’re bored or so controlling that we just enjoy telling people what to do. I, for one, would like to have one flight where I didn’t have to repeatedly tell people to put their seats up for landing. Seriously.
Can’t you just do what we ask sometimes? Without the glares, eye rolling and disdain? For the record – putting your seat up for landing may not seem that important to your personal safety. However, it is very important for the person sitting BEHIND YOU. If you have ever tried to get out of a row where
someone has their seat back you know it can be a challenge. Try grabbing your ankles (emergency brace position) or getting out of that row quickly with smoke in the cabin.
Understand a little better now?
Many of the things we ask passengers to comply with are FAA directives. Like carry-on bag stowage and exit row requirements. When we can serve drinks (in the air) and when we can’t (after the aircraft door is closed or on an active taxi-way). We are only allowed to move about the cabin during taxi
out for safety related duties. We can’t get you blankets then, or hang coats, or get you drinks. It’s not because we don’t want to. It’s because we are held personally responsible if we fail to comply with FAA directives.
Meaning that the FAA can fine us personally up to $10,000 if we fail to comply or enforce an FAA Directive. Like no bags at the bulkhead. No children in the exit row. No one moving around the cabin during taxi.
Perhaps now you know why flight attendants get a little testy when people move about the cabin when they’re not supposed to. It’s not the company that gets in trouble for that. It’s us.
Personally, I wish the airlines would show worst case scenario safety videos. Like what happens if you walk through the cabin during turbulence.
There could be a guy who has just fallen and smacked his face on the metal armrest and now has a bloody, gushing broken nose. Or an elderly lady who now has a broken arm because someone walking to the bathroom fell on her.
Maybe a passenger with a broken neck because somebody opened an overhead bin during turbulence and a suitcase fell out and onto the person sitting beneath it. These things can easily happen in a fast moving, unstable air environment.
Please just trust that we are looking out for your best interest and stop fighting with us about everything we ask you to do. It is exhausting.
Finally, please, please direct your hostility and frustrations in the direction where they will be most effective: The customer service department. They are the ones equipped to handle your complaint and
implement procedures for CHANGE.
Think about it. Complaining to the flight crew about all your negative travel experiences is about the same as complaining to the office janitor because your computer isn’t working. It may make you feel better to vent about it – but it really won’t fix anything. More than anybody we are already aware of the lack of amenities, food, service and comfort on the aircraft. Please share your concerns with the people in the cubicles at corporate who need that information to make better decisions for the flying public.
It’s frustrating that so many people are in denial about what the travel industry is about now. The glory days of pillows, blankets, magazines and a hot meal for everyone are long gone. Our job is to get you from point A to point B safely and at the cheapest possible cost to you and the company. So be prepared. If you are hungry – get a sandwich before you get on the plane.
If it’s a 3 hour flight, anticipate that you may get hungry and bring some snacks. If you are cold natured – bring a wrap. Think for yourself and think ahead. Otherwise, don’t complain when you have to pay $3 for a cookie and are left with a crusty blanket to keep you warm.
We hear often that the service just isn’t what is used to be. Well, the SERVICE we provide now isn’t what it used to be.
When I was hired, my job was to serve drinks, meals, ensure that safety requirements were met and tend to in-flight medical issues.
Since 9/11 my primary job is to ensure that my airplane will not be compromised by a terrorist.
9/11 may be a distant memory now to many, but be assured that EVERY DAY a flight attendant reports to work he or she is constantly thinking about 9/11. We feel a personal responsibility to ensure that something like that never happens again. We can never relax. We can never not be suspicious
about someone’s intentions.
It is difficult to be vigilant and gregarious at the same time. Especially when most of us are working 12 hour days after layovers that only allow 5-6 hours of sleep. Not because we were out partying and having a grand time on the layover – but because the delays that you experience as a passenger also affect us as a crew, so that what was a 10 hour layover is now 8 hours which doesn’t leave a lot of time to recover from what has become an increasingly stressful occupation.
Despite everything, I still enjoy being a flight attendant.
I am writing this letter because I do still care about my profession and about the public perception of flight attendants. In the increasingly challenging travel world it is becoming more imperative than ever for people to just be decent to each other. I can go through an entire day without one person saying anything remotely civil. I will stand at the aircraft door and say hello to everyone who enters and maybe 50% will even look at me and even less will say hello back.
I will try to serve someone a meal who can’t be bothered to take their headsets off long enough for me to ask them what they want. Most of the time the only conversation a passenger has with me is when they are complaining.
Is it any wonder why flight attendants have shut down a bit? After suffering the disdain of hundreds of passengers a day it’s difficult sometimes to even smile, much less interact. We are human. We appreciate the same respect and courtesy that passengers do.
The next time you fly, try treating the flight attendants the way you would like to be treated. You may be surprised how friendly your flight crew is when they are treated like people.