Following my Ten Commandments for Tech Companies – which changed their behavior not one whit – I offer these shalt-nots for US airlines.
Thus saith the Flying Professor:
1. Never, never blame the customer. Sure, you want to minimize your gate time. Getting irate with passengers who are slow or too weak to load their wheelies into the overhead compartments ain’t the way to do it. If you didn’t charge for checked baggage, we wouldn’t carry on so many wheelies, right? That bit of cause-and-effect is obvious to anyone but an airline executive.
2. Flight attendants, if you hear yourself starting an announcement with the words “Once again…,” zip it. The more you talk, the less we listen. You said it once; we got it. Those who didn’t get it aren’t listening anyway. Pilots and attendants who blather into the mike continuously throughout the flight can’t possibly be saying anything important.
3. You urge us to hurry to our seats for a quick departure. We see the plane has twelve doors but you only let us enter through two of them. Then you tell us to turn off our electronics, while your PA and screens still brightly blare. Both tactics engender contempt for your company. We turn off ours and you don’t turn off yours? Pretty clear there’s no danger from the devices; you just want your captive audience to attend to your commercials. And recent news shows your electronics are no less hackable than mine.
4. “Please listen to this important safety announcement.” OK, we’ll listen; we want to survive the flight. The first several minutes of the announcement turn out to be a commercial for your airline, having nothing to do with safety. Everybody’s tuned out by the time the safety part comes on.
5. Yes, it’s true that I’m walking to the rest room
while the seat belt sign is lit. It’s equally true that when you gotta go, you
gotta go. This might be my third connecting flight, and my body fluids and
digestion are seriously out of whack. I respect your need for safety and
liability avoidance. I expect your respect for my serious distress.
6. Now let’s talk about dry cabin air. You’ve carefully calculated that the cost (in added weight, and corrosion) of humidifying the cabin exceeds what you pay in settlements for medical tragedies resulting from low pressure and dry air on a 14-hour flight. (A teacher of mine, who had a kidney condition, died from this.) Germ exchange probably puts commercial airplanes second only to hospitals as top places to catch infections. The least you can do is issue warnings so people can make the plane, train, or automobile decision on a well-informed basis.
7. You ask, do I want to purchase a meal. I clear my ears so I can be sure you asked me to buy airline food. Yes! You did! What a comedian you are! Didn’t you notice the TSA sign saying No Jokes?
8. We went through tough security in Tokyo or Amsterdam or wherever, flew to the USA – then have to pass security again to transfer to our domestic flights. Lucky if we reach the gate before you’ve closed the door to the plane. Educate TSA about what poor diplomacy this is – USA saying it doesn’t trust Japan or the Netherlands to screen out the bad guys – not to mention duplicated effort for them and needless stress for passengers.
9. Don’t ever imitate anything Ryan Air does. Did you
see a Ryan Air policy and think, hey, that might be a good idea? It isn’t.
10. Expect lots of letters to the company president, and pans on Yelp and TripAdvisor. Sure, we’d rather complain on the spot, during the flight. The least-stress course for a harassed flight attendant is to label a complainer a terrorist threat and have him/her ejected from the flight or arrested on landing. It’s happened. (That link is just one instance. You can easily Google more.) We’ve learned to complain only after we’ve safely and freely arrived home.
In sum, you’ve made air travel maximally intolerable, and then charged extra for the smallest comforts. How long do you suppose you can keep this up, in a globalized marketplace, before foreign competitors “eat your lunch”? (Ha ha, see #7 above.) The Flying Professor lives in Taiwan, and enjoys courteous service and good food on EVA and Korean Air. They’re coming for you…
Last night I survived a Taipei-San Francisco-Austin trip without serious incident. I do sympathize with flight attendants - one told me attendants don't even get a free breakfast until they've worked thirty years for the company - and an 11th commandment (for airlines and passengers alike) would be, Don't abuse the attendants.
I’m afraid on some future flight I’ll be so tired and disoriented that when the pretty lady wheels the drinks trolley down the aisle, saying “Watch your elbows,” I’ll blurt out what I’m thinking, which is, “I’d rather watch your legs.”