Wanted: Someone to push heavy carts along a narrow aisle dispensing Coke (the drink), cookies and conversation, with a smile.
Applicant must be able to evacuate a plane, determine, behind closed curtains, what passengers are most likely to help in an emergency and wonder about the little girl flying alone, sitting next to that suspicious man.
The smiling applicant must be able change personalities suddenly, bark commands, frown and enforce rules without breaking stride.
Salary: Approximately $35,000 a year and seemingly endless hours flying in a metal tube.
And we assume, he or she will not be inclined to grab a few beers and exit the plane via the emergency slide, even when the pressure reaches the breaking point.
MSNBC’s revealing look at flight attendants, reveals a great deal.
Specifically, the report notes, that flight attendants are sleeping less, working longer hours, earning less and dealing with a public that is increasingly rude and demanding.
The big question, considering the multiple roles an attendant has to fulfill, is whether fluffing pillows and handing out pretzels compromise the authority flight attendants must have if they are to insure passenger safety in an emergency.
One former Delta flight attendant clearly said, “Yes,” that it is very difficult to “be a good host, be helpful, then have to police people.”
The attendant has since left the airline to start her own web site, Inflightinsider.com where the former Delta employee, Carolyn Paddock, dispenses tips to travelers on how to protect their shoes and make use of street-wise maps, presumably a much less stressful job than her previous one.
While flight attendants fought for and gained bigger fines for unruly passengers, many industry observers say it’s not enough.
Passengers apparently are flying with an increasing sense of entitlement and are apt to become outraged when a request for an upgrade or amenity is denied.
MSNBC contacted three airlines to explore whether it was time to look at flight attendant training.
Isn’t it time, they asked, in light of the Slater incident and increasingly stressed-out passengers, to reexamine the “clout” and “responsibility” attendants must have to do their real jobs of providing passenger safety?
And if they’re seen as in-flight servants, smiling customer relations personnel, will anyone look to them in times of crises?
None of the three airlines (Jet Blue, Southwest and United) chose to respond to the question.
We say, get someone else to serve the Coke and pretzels. Give the flight attendants the training and authority to save lives, and concentrate on solving real in-flight problems, not cosmetic ones.
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