Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pulling a Slater

OK, I travel enough to weigh in on the Jet Blue story and as a (fairly) frequent flyer - kudos to the flight attendant. Yes, he has several felony charges against him and I cannot argue with the law, but hope that he goes before a compassionate judge.  However, I can side with the passion he showed after reaching the limits of his tolerance when hit in the head by the baggage of an irate passenger and then cussed out by same passenger. If I had been there, I'm not sure I would not have aided and abetted him in his escape.

I watch these flight attendants smile and speak nicely to travelers who are incredibly rude to them constantly, all day, day after day, week after week. It wasn't their decision to start charging a baggage fee. Also, as talented as they are, they are not air benders who can defy the laws of physics and make that oversize bag of yours fit in the overhead bin. Or, better yet, they never got the memo that you were the "special" traveler who does not have to turn off your cell phone after the cabin door closes.

Everyone complains about flying. But, in reality, it is no worse than anything else. I think we have just lost tolerance. Gone are the days of showing up 30 minutes before the flight, parking in front of the terminal, having your loved ones walk you to the gate (I really miss that one), having as much room in your seat as you have on your living room sofa, and being served a full meal. We now know the size of 4 ounce bottle and a whole new packing routine.

Two planes that went into the World Trade Towers, one into the Pentagon, and another into a field in Pennsylvania quickly did away with the convenient parking, hugs at the gate, and last minute check-ins. But, welcome to the real world. The last time I checked, if asked, flight attendants, side with the travelers, at least the civil ones. But folks tend to look at this as an "us and them" situation. These decisions are out of their control. The travelers are just abusing the messengers.

I can remember being in line at a USAirways desk in DC during a raging winter storm. They were trying to reschedule everyone as best they could, any way they could, as quickly as they could. The "gentleman" in front me was down right belligerent with the lady who was doing her best to reroute him and get him home. I wanted to jerk his arm and remind him that it was in her best interest to get him home. She gained nothing by failing to do so.

When I heard about the events on that Jet Blue flight, I was heartened to hear that almost 100% of responses were in support of the flight attendant. To hear the comments, one would think all flyers were congenial and polite travelers. The sad part is that those ugly flyers probably don't even realize who they are. They are so "special" that they may be blind.

But if you are going to go out, go out in style. Make sure you are like Steven Slater, make your point, and make the national news. And, just to add style  - steal the two beers and escape using the emergency slide. In fact, his action may become a noun. "Did you hear, he pulled a Steven Slater." There is little doubt he has become a cult figure. Maybe his fellow flight attendants can stand taller, now that they have their hero. I know I feel better from knowing from the comments made that there are fellow members of the traveling public out there fed up with abusive rude travelers. Perhaps more vigilantes will be willing to step forward. If so, I'll buy them the beer. Maybe there is hope for civility in air travel in the future after all.

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