Today I read a story about an airline crew member gone berserk. This time it was a captain of a no-frills flight from New York. He got kicked out of the cockpit and left rambling to himself about the Middle East, terrorism and a bomb. It took a burly, male passenger to wrestle him to the floor and subdue him. Meanwhile the co-pilot barricaded himself behind the bullet-proof door, diverted the flight, and made an emergency landing in a small town in Texas. (It’s comforting to know small towns in Texas have airports.)
Two years ago there was another story about a male fight attendant, serving on a no-frills flight (Hm…I see a theme emerging), who snapped at the passengers and began babbling obscenities on the public address system. Fortunately for that flight, it hadn’t left the tarmac yet, so the disgruntled employee, with a bunch of beers under his arm, deployed the emergency chute and waved goodbye to the passengers and his job.
What’s happening to airline personnel I wonder? Are they beginning to crack under the strain, much like aging aircraft? According to a flight attendant friend, airlines these days are becoming greedy. Crews are seen as overpaid and under-productive according to management. “If they could fly their planes without us, they would be happier,” she said.
I’ve marveled at the extra work these no-frills airlines have their crews do from one flight to the next. Pilots and flight attendants go down the aisle picking up trash, straightening seat belts, and fixing everything that is out of place to get the plane ready for the next trip. The crew pulls together. They work long hours. They handle emergencies, demanding passengers, and rudeness with a smile. Now they have to add unstable co-workers to the list.
It’s a thankless job, and frankly, they aren’t rewarded enough.