I am not a fan of many US airlines.
I flew United for years, as their hub was in Chicago. But after they summarily took a gazillion of my miles away from me, with no recourse, in the 1990s, and more generally, had treated me so rudely on so many flights, I decided to try Chicago’s other hub, American.
While I only get treated like dirt by flight attendants on United about 25% of the time, versus United’s rate that, for me at least, was far higher, flying American isn’t exactly a joy either.
I get that it’s not easy being a flight attendant. But what job is? I was a congressional staffer for five years, and had to deal with angry constituents all the time. My job wasn’t exactly easy. Dealing with the public never is. It wasn’t easy when I was working the burger concession at the local city pool when I was 15. But again, the job required me to be nice, and I was. I never, ever treat our constituents or customers with anything other than the utmost courtesy. Why can’t airlines do the same?
I’m sure September 11 had a hand in it, or rather, our reaction to the event. Flying lost a lot of its fun about the time you stopped worrying about your plane falling out of the sky, and started worrying about it intentionally crashing into the nearest tower. But what should have been a justification for airlines to make the trip that much easier for their already worried and beleaguered customers, wasn’t.
Not that all domestic carriers stink. People rave about Southwest, though I’ve not had the pleasure of flying them often (I did see, however, a picture a friend sent me of a penguin walking down the aisle during one of his flights on the airline – now that’s a business that knows how to let its hair down). And Virgin America, when I flew them last year, was a dream. Nice chatty flight attendants, really good food, great TV shows and movies, great in-flight wifi, and the prices of the amenities were darn reasonable. Oh, and the plane was new, gorgeous, and comfortable. When’s the last time you said that about any US airline?
And don’t even get me started on international air travel, the topic of this post today. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel abroad a good deal as a result of being born to an immigrant mom, studying foreign relations, and learning five languages. But also, I made a sacrifice in order to afford to travel. While friends of mine got cars and bought homes, I went exploring. And if you think US carriers are bad at home, you should see what happens to them when they cross the US border and hit international waters. It’s as if someone opened Pandora’s black box and let all the evil-within out to serve you coffee.
But I digress.
There’s a great piece in last Sunday’s NYT from a guy who truly flew the flight of the damned from Paris to New York recently on American Airlines. And while his piece brings a smile, and is clearly damning to American, it could be any US carrier. And sadly, often, is.