Dear Hank...

February 08, 2009 5 Comments A+ a-

My Flight Attendant colleague and online friend, Heather Poole, has a column she writes for Gadling. Her column, Galley Gossip-Confessions from the Jumpseat, is on my "must read" list. Recently, Heather wrote a column that garnered much attention and many comments--it's called "Just a Few Things a Flight Attendant Doesn't Want to Hear". Go on over there and read it...I'll wait...

As of this writing, her post has gathered 699 comments. Scroll through a couple of pages of them...some are so vile and mean! It's really easy to hide behind a computer monitor and say vicious things. Others are just plain know-it-alls, like Hank. Hank's comment is #72...but, I've cut and pasted it, and decided to address his concerns, although I'm sure he'll never see it.

Jan 28th 2009 6:37AM Well, well, well, after working with our flight attendants for over 20 years, IO've come up with my own list:

1. F/A's who don't lift a finger to help a passenger (older or otherwise) in the over heasd bin.

Dear Hank,

My Company does not allow me to put your stuff in the overhead bin. I am allowed to "assist." Repetitive motion injuries and back injuries are common among Flight Attendants and injuries deemed to come from putting a bag in the overhead bin are NOT covered by workman's comp. That said, I have never seen a Flight Attendant refuse to help an elderly person with their bags. But, think about it...we cannot be in the aisle where people are when we are boarding--how could you walk around us with your luggage if we were in the aisle, ready to help anyone who needed it? And, if someone needs some help, maybe you could help them? Or, if you can't help an old lady with her bag, ring the call button. As soon as the aisle is clear, I am glad to help the old lady you won't.

2. F/A's who do one drink service, then spend the rest of the flight in the galley.

Our Company has a policy about how many beverage services we do and what time we do them. We also have just enough beverages to do that service, and not much more. It isn't a Safeway on the plane--there is a finite amount onboard, and if you get one beverage service on your plane, that's all that is a.) Company policy and b.) number of sodas available.

And, once we have done a beverage service, and picked up trash, and answered call lights--what else do you want me to do? Every time I walk down the aisle I am making someone uncomfortable...the man with the long legs who finally gets to stretch them out and get comfortable has to move his legs every time I walk down the aisle. The lady in the aisle seat reading the newspaper has to close her newspaper every time I walk down the aisle. Those folks standing up at their seats trying to stretch? They have to move into their row when I walk up and down the aisle. And, would you like to talk with me? You have to give me the signal--ask me a question, come back to the galley, I love talking with my passengers! You already know something about me--my job! I have no idea how I am supposed to randomly pick out someone on a plane and strike up a conversation...ya gotta give me a little clue!

3. F/A who "claim" to run out of a food selection, then are seen carrying a covered tray back to coach for the other F/A.s

At my airline, depending on how many hours we are working, we are provided with a "crew meal." Depending on the aircraft, this meal is usually in the First Class galley. In order for me to bring it back to where I have room to eat it. I cover it with a linen because I have to look down to see the legs in the aisle so I don't trip--and I can't tell if the stuff is going to be flying off the tray. The plastic knife, fork, and spoon are so lightweight that they fly off the tray. As well as the salt and pepper, and that lovely wheat roll or pack of crackers. That's why I cover the tray with a linen.

As for "claiming" to run out of a food selection--I have never seen it happen. Doesn't mean it doesn't, though. There is nothing on the plane that really is that good as to keep it from someone else. Our crew meals generally are more closely aligned with our food tastes--some order low cal, others order Hindu--and these are the meals that we get delivered on our aircraft--the ones we order. So, you can have your chicken or beef--I'm sticking to my fresh salad, thank you!

4. Surley F/A who don't ask, but TELL you to turn off your electronic devices, not knowing that many devices take several seconds to shut down.

No one should ever be surly to you. I'm not. Most Flight Attendants I know aren't, either. It is frustrating that the people I have issues with think they are special--that the rule doesn't apply to them. Generally, the electronic device announcement is made, and it is a couple of minutes before I walk down the, your "several seconds" have already elapsed 10 times over. Yet, you're still there, yakking on the phone or furiously trying to send out one last e-mail on your Crackberry. I didn't make the rule, I am there to be sure it is complied with. So, I stand over you and sweetly say "No pressure..." and watch you sheepishly turn it off. And, we both get a laugh.

But, seriously, turn it off when you are asked to, please. You aren't special--you don't get to delay the flight because you won't turn it off.

Oh, and just because it is in the non-transmitting mode does not mean it is off. OFF is OFF. Even your little iPod. O-F-F, please.

5. F/A's who throw a temper tantrum when they do not have a crew meal for a 70 minute flight.

Where in the world did you see a temper tantrum? Really, really unprofessional, if you did. I would like to point out that your Flight Attendant may have been very hungry and had been working all day without food. Not a good thing, for any human being. Still, no cause for a temper tantrum. It seems like you must see these frequently because of the way you posted this...hmmmm, maybe what you call a temper tantrum I call something else...who knows?

F/A's who delay a flight on a quick turn because they had to get a meal, grab a smoke, or make a call.

At my previous airline, if there had been delays and no breaks in our schedule, we were able to take a "physiological needs" break. If the crew had not eaten all day, the Captain could authorize up to a 30 minute meal break. The Flight Deck can get food and eat behind closed doors, call their wives while the flight is boarding, check their e-mail. The Flight Attendant is constantly in the public eye. The only private place we have is the lavatory. This can be for up to 14 hours a day. FOURTEEN hours with no break. While you may think that the Flight Attendant should go without food for hours on in, I disagree. Respectfully, of course. Toe-MAY-toe, Toe-MAH-toe.

Oh, and delaying the flight to take care one's physiological needs also has a price to the crew--our day has gotten that much longer.

As for delaying a flight to smoke or make a call--my airline would have called the Flight Attendant onto the carpet for that sort of behavior. And, she would eventually be without a job.

F/A who reprt late, delay boarding, then find a minor "maintenence issue" that covers up the delayed boarding delay.

6.F/A who purposely delay a flight because they are on the front end of a 5 day break and the delay will cause them to go illegal, thus affording them an additional day off.

7. Using the "crew legality" issue to their advantage. The are TWO ways to go illegal(on duty for too many hours) The first is FAA regs and the 2nd is the Union reg. They will use whichever to gain the the best chance for #6.

I'll address all these at once. Flight Attendants who report late for a flight on their own volition, lose their jobs. It's that simple. Union rules and Company policy do not cover a Flight Attendant with an attendance issue. There is a step program in place here at my Company, with points assigned for violations. Reach a certain number of points, and you are outta here.

Didja ever stop to consider that the Flight Attendant that is late to her aircraft is late because her inbound flight was late? Or, that she was the Airport Standby person who was called less than 10 minutes ago?

And, purposely delay a flight? Get serious! It really just doesn't happen. A couple of tricks like that, along with carpet dances with her Manager, and points accumulate--she won't be around for much longer!

And, a minor maintenance issue? Who are you to decide an issue is minor? The Flight Attendant's job is to report a discrepancy to the Captain, and the Captain makes the call. Flight Attendants do not delay flights on their own. There are rules to be followed--and this is a very rule oriented industry. If our coffee maker is inoperative, do you know that can delay a flight? You know why? Because it is an electrical problem. Do you want to fly on an airplane with miles and miles of electric wires, knowing there is an issue with part of that system--and it could come to fruition at 30,000 feet? Me, either.

So, you may think the problem is stupid...but, maybe consider that you don't know the whole story. You give the Flight Attendants waaa-ay too much power! When what we all have is the power of a AAA battery.

Let's be real about the 'safety issue" I heard an F/A state that they can bring the "dead back to life" because of the on board AED. The AED is dummy proof, but I did see a F/A use it completely wrong, which goes to the old saying, They can make it dummy proof, but you can always find a bigger dummy.

If you saw a Flight Attendant using the AED incorrectly on a passenger, I hope to God you helped her out. Imagine yourself in that situation! I certainly would hope you would point it out to her! If not, who is the bigger dummy?

Oh, and Hank? I have set my DVR to record 60 Minutes tonight--you know, the one with the crew of US Airways 1549? Safety issue? I don't think it was the Captain or First Officer that did not open the rear doors when passengers were trying to--and I do believe it was a Flight Attendant who made sure the appropriate people were in the Exit Row and later opened the forward doors for the evacuation.

Instead of wasting her time doing that, maybe she shoulda been doing a beverage service??

5 What's YOUR view? Click here to comment, please!

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February 8, 2009 at 6:04 PM delete

I really enjoyed Heather's post but was VERY surprised at some of the comments ....

February 8, 2009 at 8:22 PM delete

I don't know who this Hank is....but as someone who worships FA's, PULEEESE let me have five minutes...alone...with him, in a room. Does he know most FA's don't even get meals anymore? Does he have ANY idea, how HARD it is to smile 14 hours in a row without food or a break? I say....let Hank fly as a FA for one week, one a trip with multiple short hops, to Miami, and see if he doesn't learn to worship FA's. WOW.


February 9, 2009 at 7:18 AM delete

Hank sounds like a real idiot. But this is an example of your earlier post about complaining. Hank must be a really unhappy guy. Maybe he should find another "ride".

Casey Claire
February 9, 2009 at 11:24 AM delete

yeah Hank, eff you! In your face! =]

Heather Poole
February 9, 2009 at 12:23 PM delete

You are too funny. I remember Hank's comment well, as his was one of the few that bothered me. Probably because he sounds like a gate agent. I mean god forbid we actually eat on a flight during a 14 hour work day! I'm glad you addressed this because I wanted to, but instead I took on Big Daddy. :)