Sometimes You Have to Learn and Let Go

Earlier this month my wife and I were flying from Miami back to Boston. Everyone was aboard with 20 minutes remaining until departure. I mentioned to my wife that the first class flight attendant was not bothering to offer drinks—not even soft drinks—and wasn’t very attentive. During the meal, she was polite but very slow. She never thought to refill a drink until asked.

 

After the meal, she came up to us and said, “Do you remember me?” I told her I didn’t, and was suddenly wondering what my wife was thinking at the moment. “You wrote the blog about me,” she said.

 

She was correct. Two years ago, right here (http://www.contrarianconsulting.com/travesty-on-american-flight-1758/), I wrote about a crew of flight attendants who would not help two elderly, very heavy women—one blind and one sight-impaired—place their luggage in the overhead bins. A man with a cane and I had to go over to help them. Furious, I asked the flight attendants why they weren’t helping.

 

“We’re not allowed to, according to American Airlines policy,” I was told.

 

“Well how about ethical and humanitarian policy?” I asked. They were mute.

 

The flight attendant now reminding me of this told me my blog post had reached American management (who had told me there is no such policy of “non-help.”) It had caused her significant paperwork and stress, she said, along with the other two employees involved. She was subject to a great deal of inconvenience (as were the two passengers she had not helped, I imagine).

 

“And you’ve been checking manifests for two years to find me?” I asked, stunned.

 

“Yes, I figured that some day I’d fly with you again. I wanted to tell you if you had just spoken to me at greater length I could have explained everything. I’ve been working this job for 25 years.” (That was a telling comment.)

 

“You all had the chance to speak to me on that flight,” I said, “and what I saw was completely inappropriate behavior.”

 

After she went back to her duties—deliberate and slow—my wife said, “That is sad, not realizing what she did wrong, unhappy that it caused her some paperwork, and thinking about it, trying to find you again, for two years.” We were aghast.

 

“Yes,” I said, “and she certainly doesn’t represent the best service that American has to offer even on this routine flight.” (I had handed out a recognition slip on the flight down for outstanding service to that flight attendant. Today’s flight to Miami was handled quite well.) “Some people have 25 years of experience, and some have one year 25 times over and over.”

 

I’ll bet that entire crew still isn’t helping disabled people with their luggage.

 

© Alan Weiss 2015

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18 Responses to Sometimes You Have to Learn and Let Go

  1. Craig Martin says:

    Inconvenienced her ? ! ?

    This is one of the biggest problems around – customers are seen as an inconvenience to the very people who want to take their money.

  2. Guido Thys says:

    Isn’t the real problem that management seems to think that “significant paperwork” is the proper way to deal with issues like these?

  3. Tim Wilson says:

    Wow, she waited two years to confront you? It’s not like you’re a hard person to find Alan. She knew your name knew that you wrote a blog about her deplorable conduct. If she really wanted to explain things all she had to do was google you.
    It seems that service has gone by the wayside with a number of US based companies. Everything is profit driven and the customers are just a means to an end.
    I know that you have over a million miles from various airlines, but, for the amount of flying you do it would seem that something like NetJets fractional ownership (www.forbestravelguide.com/partner/netjets/what-is-included-in-a-netjets-ownership ) would be more to your liking for both domestic and international flights. It’s a Berkshire Hathaway owned company so I don’t think you’ll have a customer service problem.

  4. Alan Weiss says:

    ‘Which means that anyone who thinks that way shouldn’t be in the position they’re in.

  5. Noah says:

    Wow. Incredible. Did you tell her you were going to write another one?

    I flew Delta yesterday and watched three flight attendants go above and beyond to help a man who could barely walk, dragging a large ventilator that needed its own seat.

  6. Alan Weiss says:

    Delta is ready when you are!

  7. It is actually pretty simple: taking care of customers isn’t part of your job, it IS your job.

  8. Tim Wilson says:

    I can’t believe she checked manifests for two years waiting to see if you would be on another flight she was on to address you. It’s not like you’re a hard person to locate. Type in your name google and you pop right up.
    What I don’t get is why would she think giving you poor service would solve anything? It was her lack of understanding of what it means to be in the service industry the first time that got her noticed by you and you writing about it in your blog.
    The airline industry has been broken for a long time and its current set of managers are incapable of fixing it.

  9. Alan Weiss says:

    She wasn’t deliberately giving poor service to us, that’s her normal service standard for everyone, unfortunately. Thank goodness she’s an exception, but it shows what happens when you simply allow people to stay in the same job for over two decades.

    • Tim Wilson says:

      I was satisfying an intellectual curiosity the other day on fractional ownership of private jets (not that I’m considering it) and came across NetJets owned by Berkshire Hathaway, which they site as one of their benefits. It seems like it something that would appeal to the way you fly. Have you ever considered it? They handle both domestic and international flights.

  10. Alan Weiss says:

    I have, but while I find the flexibility and convenience estimable, the cost and burden are somewhat onerous. I don’t mind paying top dollar for luxury, but I do mind paying for things I can’t use or lost opportunity. I’d like to have a “pay as you fly” agreement, not ownership.

  11. Scott Larson says:

    You are most likely correct when you state that the FA in question was providing you with her “normal” service, and too that she is the exception. My bet is this person has given the same service throughout her 25 years of flying and that it has absolutely NOTHING to do with her longevity at American. I have 38 years as a Delta Flight attendant and I can tell you without exception that some of the finest FA’s in the industry are the most senior (40+years of seniority) and that some of the WORST in the industry are the most junior! Quite being such an Ageist !

  12. Praveen Puri says:

    I noticed that NetJets also offers the Marquis jet card program. So, instead of buying a fractional ownership in a plane, you can buy prepaid 25-hour or 50-hour jet cards that can be renewed.

  13. alan weiss says:

    Thanks!

  14. Alan Weiss says:

    My problem with fractional ownership and the private jets is that on longer hauls commercial first class service is pretty good, if you choose carefully. And if there are mechanical problems or weather issues, I can always find alternatives rapidly.

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