The Friendly Skies Are Cheap

Flight attendants these days are not a happy bunch.

I noticed on a recent flight on the hipster airline with the purple cabin lights that the 20-something flight attendants were less than overjoyed to be serving us.  cropped-photo7.jpg

Not once did we get a smile with our no-frills cups of water and no peanuts.

They served one round of drinks and went to their jump seats for the rest of the flight to read their e-books. I suppose they would have paid a little more attention to us if the weather had turned turbulent or a bagpiper had walked down the aisle blowing his pipes.

I noticed the same behavior on the flight back home.

And this from an airline that prides itself in innovation and creativity.

I noticed another thing. This airline flies Airbuses and they all need oiling. Every plane I’ve been on squeaks and moans and makes swirling noises like a giant cake mixer. This is especially true at take-off. Landings aren’t any quieter. The landing gear comes down with a thump. First time I heard the racket I wanted off. Now I’m used to it. What is it about European aircraft that they make so much noise?

A flight attendant friend says it’s the low pay that demoralizes everyone.

That may be true. One flight attendant on another carrier makes so little money that she is forced to live in a flop house with 26 other attendants.  Others can’t even find flop houses because they’re all full and sleep in airline lounges, except they’re not allowed to, so they sleep on the floor in the gate areas.

That’s just not right.

If McDonald’s pays $15 an hour, why not the hipster airline? Oh wait. That is the base pay. You get a raise when you turn 102.

Calvin says, “Kennel workers make more than that. That’s why I don’t fly. I like hangin’ with the ground squirrels.” beagle





Not-So Friendly Up There

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.

Calvin says, “One way to remedy that is to put a trained beagle on board and let him sniff out the potential problem-maker before lift-off.”