I just read an article where a flight attendant listed off the eight worst types of passengers. Though it was witty and I found it humorous, I also found it highly insulting. I do not want to start a war and forever guarantee myself a snub and the chicken ala spit on future flights, but reason must be maintained. My general feeling towards cockpit and cabin crew are of the Pan Am era: I think they are great, I think they are neat, I think they live fascinating lives and I think pilots are rockstars. I also think they are very under appreciated. There are exceptions, and complaining about the people who pay your salary is not a clever move…

a woman in a red shirt on a bed in an airplane

The problem with the passenger/ flight attendant relationship is expectation from both sides. Flight crews travel every day and things that seem obvious to them are not always obvious to passengers. Inversely things that seem obvious to passengers are not always obvious to flight attendants. There is tension in the frustration and expectation of this service based relationship. I recall a great documentary called Jiro Dreams of Sushi. In the film, Jiro, now Japan’s most celebrated sushi chef proclaims that he’s never had a bad day of work in his life. Why? Because he has a job and he is paid for it. No complaints. There are better days than others, better customers than others but at the end of the day it’s work, it earns a living, and in the case of flight crews allows you to see the world. Dealing with people is part of the gig. Air travel is a premium, it’s not getting better and it is most certainly a service industry. Do some people expect too much service? Definitely. Are some people overtly rude or entitled? Absolutely. I hate them as much as anyone. Should I live in fear of triggering a flight attendant pet peeve? No, Absolutely not. I should be nice, respectful and appreciative just like everyone else. If I happen to forget to take my headphones off when answering a question, I am sorry, please don’t write about me on the internet. We all make mistakes. Everyone has to deal with frustrating people in the work place. Flight crews are compensated for dealing with frustrating passengers, it’s part of the job. Don’t blog about it. Focus on the good passengers.

I feel for cabin crew, they are in a service industry which offers increasingly dwindling service. At the same time that we as passengers hope for more, airlines slash away at rest times, pay grades and benefits for the crews they put out there to represent the airline and face us. Not fair.  The average crew doing a London to New York flight turns around the very next day, even when they land just before midnight. It’s brutal, I feel for them and rude passengers don’t help. Additionally, planes are at higher capacity than ever which means stress for all: stress for us finding overhead bins, stress for cabin crew serving more people crammed in tighter than sardines, stress for baggage crews trying to get your stuff to the right place on time. It’s all stressful. 

a seat in a passenger seat

On a recent trip I saw the best of both worlds. I saw a group of relatively young male cabin crew on my flight from New York to London who looked like they had seen the sun rise and truly did not give a sh*t. Walking dead meets Boogie Nights kinda stuff. I couldn’t believe that they were being paid for the segment or that they still had jobs. I wish I got paid to deal with them! On my flight home, I couldn’t believe how wonderful the crew were. They were Polite, relaxed and made every passenger feel as if they mattered, their safety mattered and that life was good. Not all passengers are created equal nor are flight crews. It’s no different than a restaurant with a bad server or a restaurant with a annoying customer. Bad examples of both are everywhere but the fundamental difference is that those on the “service” side are compensated for dealing with unruly passengers whereas passengers are not compensated for dealing with terrible crew. If a restaurant released an “annoying” customer habits blog, do you think patrons would still pour in? 

Everyone has pet peeves. People aren’t going to change and complaining about them on the Points Guy isn’t going to help the status quo, it’s going to make things chippy. Focus on the good, kind and polite passengers, it’s the only way people will ever understand “good service”.

Comment Away, I’ll Chip In: GodSaveThePoints@gmail.com

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *