Monday, 2 June 2008

Flying the Unfriendly Skies

I just got back from a whirlwind business trip for the museum. The director, one of the curators, and I spent two days at meetings in the US Midwest related to an upcoming collaborative exhibition. The exhibit is trilateral - with us, a museum in the US and a Chinese institution but at the last moment the Chinese delegation had to pull out of the meeting as the government rescinded their travel permits citing the need to focus on reconstruction after the earthquakes. Despite only having two out of three of the institutions present, the meetings were very productive. I did a bit of simultaneous interpretation, took notes for the minutes, and even raised a few points of my own during the meetings. It was a great learning experience and as an added bonus I even got a quick tour of two local museums from one of the American curators (and a quick trip to the Walgreen's to restock those things that I just can't get in Japan).

When we arrived in the US the director of our partner museum asked us if our flight had been uneventful, and thankfully it had been. That said, I still found myself writing down my thoughts on the state of air travel these days...

What is it with air travel these days? When were the friendly skies replaced with new rude and inconsiderate skies? There are the big issues, like when I flew home at Christmas and the lady at the boarding gate saw no problem with snapping at me to "sit down now and wait." When I finally got her to listen to my question she then yelled at me for not having the issue dealt with sooner. Granted, it was the holiday season, the most stressful time of year, and there was bad weather playing havoc with air travel up and down the US western seaboard. But yelling and snapping at passengers before they have a chance to even say anything? Passengers are delayed because of weather issues and there are no gate staff to answer their questions. Then a single staff appears and starts yelling at people to go away and stop asking questions. Then you wonder why you have a waiting area of angry and cranky passengers?!

Really. Customer service 101. Basic human politeness. The Golden Rule. You treat somebody rudely, they'll get pissed off and treat the next person they meet rudely, and its a snowball out of control - the evil twin of paying it forward.

There are also the little things, the ways in which flight attendants and passengers show their consideration (or lack there of) for other passengers. I try to remember to always pull up my seat back when eating, so that the person behind me can actually see the meal on their tray. I remember when if you were asleep at mealtime, the flight attendant would leave you a note telling you to push your call button and ask for your meal. On my most recent flight, however, no such notes were in evidence.
"Eggs or noodles?" - asked once in a normal voice. No response?
"Eggs or noodles?" - hollered loud enough to wake the dead. No response?
poke-poke-poke (jabs in the shoulder) "Eggs or noodles?" - No response?
shake-shake (grabbed by the shoulder and shaken back and forth) "EGGS. OR. NOODLES?"
This normally caused some version of "mwfarmw mfwfarm??" from a sleepy and befuddled passenger, to which the flight attendant repeated, again "EGGS. OR. NOODLES?" with as much eye-rolling and sighing as a moody teenager.

There was also the flight attendant who wasn't thrilled to be asked to fill up the water glass of the girl sitting beside me, so he did so without really looking at her or her glass (held above my lap). When he dripped all over and dumped an ice cube on me he simply said "oops!" and without apologizing, he disappeared into the cabin to refill the water jug. When he came back out he walked right past me as if nothing had happened and didn't offer me anything to help mop up.

Nothing major, I suppose, but still. Welcome to air travel in the 21st century. Sigh.

1 comment:

  1. Wow - how rude and inconsiderate! I can's say anything similar has happened to me during my travels in Europe this past three months. I flew Swiss Air every time, and the service was always professional and friendly, including the small square of Swiss chocolate near the end of each flight.
    Sorry to hear your stories - flying is already so stressful - maybe the attendants all need to do some yoga...
    love and hugs, C