I’m never afraid to share my flight experiences, either positive or negative. Fortunately a vast majority of my experiences are ranging from good to excellent, though when I have a bad experience, I usually attribute it to a “bad apple.” Once in a while people will leave comments like “cut them some slack, they were probably just having a bad day.” Yes, that’s sometimes the case, but for the most part, the “bad apples” are bad all the time, while the good flight attendants do a great job regardless of their condition.
Well, today was one of those days where I would have eaten my words. I was flying from Tampa to Denver this morning on an Airbus 320, and had some very senior flight attendants. Actually, the flight attendant in coach that appeared to be the most junior mentioned she had 26 years seniority with United. The two flight attendants in coach were phenomenal, while the first class flight attendant simply couldn’t be bothered.
She didn’t greet passengers, didn’t offer pre-departure beverages, seemed like she was exerting every ounce of effort possible to not crack a smile, and couldn’t have been any less enthusiastic about her announcements. She was a “bad apple,” or so I thought.
I fell asleep almost immediately after takeoff (I’ve gotten 10 hours of sleep in the past 72 hours, but we’ll save that for a different post), and woke up as the meal service was just wrapping up. The flight attendant walked past me time after time (and I made eye contact with her almost every time), and didn’t once ask if I wanted anything to eat. Eventually both flight attendants from coach were up front serving first class, while the purser was in the lavatory.
She spent probably the better part of 30 minutes in and out of the lavatory, before the flight attendants blocked the aisle and opened the flight deck door. The pilots went to the bathroom while the cart stayed in the aisle, though in the end the purser didn’t emerge. Moments later the captain came on the PA and explained that we were “down” one flight attendant, as she was terribly sick and would be hanging out in the cockpit for the remainder of the flight because she needed more oxygen, and they have masks up there. He went on to ask the passengers to have compassion for the two remaining flight attendants, that would be working alone in the cabin. He could have (or probably should have) stopped there, but instead went on to remind us that flight attendants were there for our safety and that serving passengers is just something they do on the side, though I understand his intentions were good.
Anyway, I was really, really impressed by the two remaining flight attendants at that point. They didn’t sit down for the entire flight, and served constantly. Everyone was very understanding of the situation and didn’t want to ask for anything, though they still came around every five minutes asking if anyone wanted anything.
About 30 minutes before landing the purser emerged. There was an Air Force doctor that happened to be a 1K million miler in seat 2A, and he proceeded to do some “tests” on her as we began our descent. Eventually the purser took the jumpseat in the back in preparation for landing, while one of the other flight attendants took over the purser role.
So what’s the lesson to learn? Sometimes flight attendants do have bad days. If she hadn’t basically “broken down,” I would have assumed she was a bad apple. While I can’t say one way or another whether she would otherwise be a professional, I would most definitely give her the benefit of the doubt. More importantly, I was really impressed (and proud!) by how the rest of the crew stepped up their game given the conditions.
Just keep that in mind the next time you have a bad flight attendant…