Flight Attendants see a lot of “victims”, from which we develop radars for sussing them out. You know, the ones who think they’re the only passengers on the plane who
want “need” deserve more leg room or an extra pillow or whathaveyou? The ones who think if they come up with a story they can scam extra attention/stuff out of us? We see it. Daily. Of course, sometimes we disagree on who is a sincere person, who is just clueless, and who is “playing” us. But I respect any flight attendant who tries to figure it out. I hate it when one becomes so desensitized that they start automatically treating everyone like they’re a self-centered whiner. Everyone has their off-days, but I mean all the time. But that’s not even the worst in my book.
The worst is the flight attendant who comes up with every reason in the universe as to why they are justified in being unempathetic, why there is no such thing as a passenger with a legitimate concern – even when it’s obvious yet the passenger is kind and unassuming. At that point I stop thinking the flight attendant is just cynical and start suspecting it’s some dirty cross between passive-aggressive and lazy.
“Lazy”, by the way, is perhaps the worst thing one flight attendant could say about another. You might hear one say, “She’s certifiably nuts. She preforms cat marriages on the weekends. But she’s a haaard worker.”
My most recent run-in with this was on Sunday, flying Paris to NYC. In the last pair of seats in Coach sat a cute French girl and her nice, 6’7″ giant of a boyfriend. He very kindly asked if there might be any other seats they could move to with more leg room. Now, we see this situation every day. And I pretty much knew there wasn’t anything I could do, as the cabin had a total of 4 open seats. But they were so nice, I promised to try. And I did.
After a few walks through the cabin to suss out possible moves, I did not spy any passengers in appropriate seats who gave off the vibe that they might be happy to swap. At the last moment the agent changed a few people around, resulting in new candidates, and they were perfectly happy to give their 3-seat row to the giant. Success!
My colleague says, “I wouldn’t help him.” I shrugged. He continued: “No, really. If you’re that tall, then buy a Business Class seat.” Me: “Maybe he can’t afford a Business Class seat.” Him: “Well then I wouldn’t travel until I could save up enough to afford it.” Me: You don’t even know why he’s traveling. Maybe it’s important. Maybe he’s going to see his sick mother.” Him: “Even if I were poor. I would just wait, and keep saving up until I could.” Me: “You’re talking about $500 versus $5000. For 7 hours of leg room. Him: “Doesn’t matter.” Me: “So…you think that if you happen to be really tall you should either make the choice between paying your bills or buying a Business Class seat…or not ever travel?” He shrugged indignantly: “That’s how I feel.”
OK then. Clearly my colleague has never had to cough up $5000 for a plane ticket.
My all-time favorite was after the ash cloud drama in May 2010 which grounded planes across Europe for a week. After being stuck in Paris for 6 days (sounds great, but it definitely was not!) I was back flying full planes to Europe to get people on the continent where they were supposed to be. One flight attendant walked into the galley grumbling about news stories about the costs of the ash cloud. I can picture her now as she flopped into her jumpseat: “I don’t want to hear about anyone out the cost of their vacation. Haven’t these people heard of travel insurance?! Who doesn’t know to get that? Me: “You do know the point is about people that did have travel insurance…denied because of “Act of God” clauses? Her: “Well they should get better insurance. One that doesn’t have an Act of God clause in it. Me: Mmmm. It’s a pretty standard thing in travel insurance. Her: “Well they should find a non-standard one.” Me, gently: Have you ever bought travel insurance? (She ignored me.)
I should stress that these are a special type of flight attendant. They’re not a large group, but they’re out there and hard to miss, like people in the public who say if we have some dissatisfactions in our job, we should “just find a new one.” (OMG that was so easy! Problem solved! Right?)
Whether flight attendant or passenger, some people clearly have the answer to everything, and it’s always something obvious and oh-so-simple. I really hope to have them as passengers somtime. I bet they could solve all my problems. And – most importantly – I’m sure they’d never, ever ask for anything.