House hearing on the airline industry today

Today, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing on Customer Service in the airline industry.  My airline was there, as well as three others: Alaska, Southwest and American. At many points, senior leadership was excoriated for the airline policies that are in place regarding lost luggage, change fees, seat size, pricing--it was a well-deserved field day.

However, one statement made by Indiana Representative Todd Rokita (at the 4:07:30 mark) stood out to me above all the others: "A grown man, assumedly sane, approached by Law Enforcement on an aircraft, should abide by the request being made."

*mic drop*


Here's a link to the hearing:
https://transportation.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=401344







It's been a bad few weeks for us...

My colleague, Mary, posted this on Facebook.  Thought you'd like to read it, too.

"Okay, I'm officially and thoroughly irate.
On my way to work two days ago I made the mistake of running a few errands while I was dressed in uniform. As I was walking through a parking lot I heard a male voice ask if I work for United. I turned and answered yes, then with contemptuous snickering in his voice he started to say something about our recent bad press. I didn't even let him finish, just turned around and talked over him as I walked away saying, "You're hilarious, really. I'm sure I haven't heard that one before." He hit a nerve.
At first I took 'jokes' over United's recent bad press light heartedly. Haha, very funny, let's move on....but the world is not moving on and we flight attendants now find ourselves smack dab in the middle of what has become the latest spin of 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire'!

There is no question that even to the most seasoned of travelers, air travel can be stressful. After making their way to an airport, people have to stand in line to check in their bags, then another line to get poked and prodded by security, and yet another line to get on an airplane. They do all of this while lugging their children/pets/belongings through seas of humanity, only to end up "trapped" on metal tubes with tens to hundreds of strangers all vying to secure their own personal space and each seeking to have their personal needs satisfied (be it at the expense of others, if necessary).

I just started my twentieth year as a flight attendant and I speak from experience when I say that 99% percent of the flying public are decent, civilized, well-behaved people who manage to make it through all of their air travel without incident. Then there is the 1%....the 1% which I fear is a growing number. A growing number that has been emboldened by the recent wave of videos showing only parts of stories that had much more context than what was shown and over which the general public has seen fit to express their uninformed, self-righteous outrage. Uninformed, self-righteous outrage disseminated at record speeds over the all-powerful, often biased and ill-informed, cherry-picking, headline chasing media whose irresponsible misinformation drives airline stocks into a tailspin and consequently sends airline management groups into full panic, tails-between-their-legs, public relations fix-it modes that only serve to reward people for bad behavior.

Let's begin with America's newest millionaire, "Dr" Dao. He was asked to step off an airplane NOT because of overbooking but because weather conditions caused an unforeseen need to reposition airline crew from one city to another. Three people deplaned the very same flight without incident (the "99%"). Dr. Dao (the "1%") decided that he was going to kick and scream like an entitled, bratty, irrational, temper-tantrum throwing man-child who wasn't getting his way. The TAIL END of the incident was caught on tape by fellow passengers (none of which volunteered to take his place giving up their seats, mind you), and here we are today. Much to my shock and chagrin, instead of defending themselves for having done nothing wrong, United Airlines handed over a lump sum of cash which will no doubt magically make Dr. Dao's pain, suffering, and inconvenience all go away. Was the incident over the top? Yes. Did it have to go the way it did? Of course not. But it was initiated and escalated by Dr. Dao and handled by employees of Republic Airways and Chicago's Airport Authority. Where does United Airlines come in? United Airlines contracted Republic Airways to operate their short haul flights. As a result United's name was painted on the outside of the airplane, thereby United Airlines suffered the media stain and most significantly United Airlines had the deepest pockets which made them the bullseye that Dr. Dao's lawyers honed in on. So now there is not much left to say except to the unscrupulous Dr. Dao...well played, sir. Enjoy your millions.

Queue in the American Airlines stroller mom. Who doesn't have sympathy for a crying mother holding her baby, right? Well....let's review the actual facts. She insisted on bringing a stroller onto an airplane, which is not permitted. Strollers are checked at the gate upon boarding an aircraft and are returned at the gate of arrival upon deplaning. With passengers carrying on everything but their kitchen sinks these days, there is simply no room in the overhead compartments for long, bulky strollers. When I watched the video of this incident for the first time and saw the mother sobbing hysterically I had to ask myself good God, are we just talking about a stroller here or did they take her CHILD with the stroller?!??? I thought someone had died! But no, there was no child abduction or death to be spoken of....just another 1%'er who felt they were entitled to be exempted from to the rules. Again, an incident that escalated and got out of control, but also again...an incident that was unnecessarily initiated by its very theatrical "victim."

EVERY DAY, across the country, across the world, flight attendants put out hundreds to thousands of fires (figuratively speaking). EVERY DAY. People board aircrafts with all sorts of baggage and I'm not referring to their luggage. Passengers come aboard cranky, tired, frustrated, short tempered and seeking to find comfort and rest in an environment that just isn't suited to being comfortable OR restful. It is literally impossible for us to make everyone happy...and we flight attendants become the targets of the 1%'ers anger, glares, eye-rolls, verbal insults, and even physical threats or worse!

*Someone complains it's too cold on the airplane so we ask the cockpit to warm up the cabin, then ten minutes later someone else is complaining that it's too hot. *We run out of chicken and they wanted chicken, or we run out of beef and they wanted beef. Or how dare we not have vegetarian, gluten-free, organic, strained tofu to offer them...all the while taking no responsibility for their lack of planning ahead given their specific dietary needs. *We ask passengers wearing headphones 3-5 times what they would like to drink but they can't be bothered to look up from their gadgets so we walk away and two seconds later they're doing the Exorcist head spin barking at us that we "skipped" them! *We have literally seen passengers move other people's bags to accommodate their own then left the other person's belongings hanging out so the overhead bin wouldn't close, but they didn't care because their carry ons were in. We have been yelled at for touching people's coats as we tried to rearrange bins to make room for more bags, their coats...like coats were delicate, breakable heirlooms! *Parents leave their seats completely trashed because they can't be bothered to clean up after their own children; leaving chewed up food, dirty diapers, liquid spills, crumbs and trash all over their now empty seats and floor space. The same parents who are incredulous that we don't have an unlimited supply of milk and diapers at their disposal and who are insulted that we won't take their childrens' dirty feces-filled diapers but rather ask them to deposit them in the lavatory trash bins. *We only have a limited supply of bottled water to be shared by ALL passengers but we're the bad guys because we won't give someone a full bottle of their very own. Meanwhile on their way to the plane they walked passed twenty-seven restaurant/snack/or sundry shops in the airport terminal that all sold bottled water. *Domestically we don't serve free meals in coach. We haven't served free meals on domestic flights in coach since 2002...yet this is somehow news and we become the terrible people because we aren't feeding them. *We get yelled at by people for the way they were treated by TSA when they went through security. *We get scornful looks because we don't accept cash, rather only credit or debit cards for onboard purchases. (Just yesterday I was yelled at because we "discriminate against people who don't have credit cards!") *Occasionally our wifi and entertainment systems may be down, or a seat may not recline, or a reading light may be out...all end of the world scenarios. *Then there are the inevitable flight delays and cancellations caused by any number of reasons, none of which are flight attendant decisions, yet WE are the ones who face the wrath. Any time we cannot make the impossible happen or give people the answer they want to hear, we are the villains.
Our primary job is to ensure the safety of our passengers as we get them from Point A to Point B. To ensure we meet this most basic responsibility, there are sets of rules and laws that were established long before my time and by people much smarter than I am. Rules and laws that the entitled 1% of the flying public feels don't apply to them. I understand no one likes being told what to do, but it is necessary to follow established rules and laws, especially within the tight confines of an aircraft whether it's sitting at a gate, taxiing down a runway, or flying at 39,000 feet. There has to be order and safety measures have to be followed or we all leave ourselves open for undesirable consequences.
*Yet...despite our repeated announcements and requests, people still get up when the seatbelt sign is on. Even when turbulence is bad enough that flight attendants are told by the cockpit to take their seats we still have to reiterate to people that they need to stay seated with their seat belts on. *Upon closing the aircraft door for departure, we ask people to end their phone conversations and put their phones on airplane mode. Up to ten minutes later we still catch people talking on their phones...because everyone else turned off their phones but they don't have to. *For take-off and landing we ask people to close and stow their large laptops...five minutes later they're still typing away. *Every airline has a section of extra legroom in their coach cabins. When passengers buy their tickets, they ALL have the option to pay the additional cost of sitting in the extra legroom section. Some who choose not to pay then board the aircraft and move themselves up to the more desirable section. One, this is theft. Two, everyone else sitting up there paid to sit there, so what makes the seat jumpers think they shouldn't have to? Yet it happens frequently on flights with light passenger loads. *We ask that people use the lavatories in their own cabin but like children testing the grown ups some make a point of trying to use the ones in first class. Like those are somehow better. They're not. *We've had people smoke, drink from their own alcohol supply, perform sexual acts, fondle people they didn't know, expose themselves, smuggle animals, get into pissing contests with each other over the most mundane things...even simple tasks like stowing their tray tables and bringing their seat backs forward when it's required...with the 1%'ers everything is a battle and we are the ones who have to deal with them.
It's often exhausting. Yet the majority of us love our job and would never want to do anything else. We are the eternal optimists who greet you with a "hello" and a smile and send you on your way with a "thank you and have a nice day." One of the very great perks of the job is that no two flights are ever the same. When we are inevitably faced with the 1%'ers, we do our best to handle them as professionally and appeasingly as possible. It doesn't always end well and not everyone is always happy, but we certainly don't upset people out of malice. One thing I feel I can safely say about most flight attendants is that we hate paperwork and we genuinely have no interest in creating any for ourselves.
As for United Airlines. I believe it is a GREAT company to work for, and we have thousands of employees who every day bend over backwards to help people in countless small and sometimes incredible ways that will never make the news. We don't do it for recognition, we do it because we are nice, decent people who are happy to help; and any one of us should be able to walk through a public parking lot without being jeered at for where we work. Needless to say, if anyone has any more 'jokes' for me, I would encourage them to direct them elsewhere. It's not funny and we are not laughing!!"

Questions You've Always Wanted to Ask

A couple of things weren't exactly what I said, but close enough!

http://www.businessinsider.com/a-flight-attendant-answers-the-questions-youve-always-wanted-to-ask-2016-5