A LITTLE ANGST ABOUT UPCOMING FLIGHTS

We’re flying to Indianapolis soon on one of those express jets, similar to the one involved in the recent airline problem, and I’m a little apprehensive. My wife and I were both a little shocked by the sight of the passenger being carried off a plane and couldn’t help empathizing with the victim and the other passengers who witnessed the unexpected side show. And we certainly didn’t feel much better watching the video that had gone viral of a flight attendant tangling with a mom over her stroller.

These incidents were extreme, I understand, but they involved people like you and me and really made me wonder what’s happening in our so-called friendly skies. The head of the flight attendants, an organization of some 50,000 members across a multitude of airlines tried to put these issues in perspective earlier this week.

She explained that what happened on these two flights was hardly an across-the-board representation of standard flight attendant behavior. She also reminded travelers that flights are definitely becoming more crowded, leaving less room for extra luggage and patience.

I’ve definitely seen an increase in rudeness to airline service people over seat assignments, oversized luggage and flight delays. That rudeness has also extended to passengers bringing pungent, sometimes unpleasant food aboard, sore knees from reclining seats pushed back too far and occasional times when one passenger is tired and a seatmate is too talkative.

And the airlines are no longer bargain basements in terms of luggage and seat selection charges and now fees for overhead bins on some airlines. Everything has a price, I guess. My latest tactic is to travel with a small enough overnight bag, get it through security and hope that when I arrive at the gate, they’ll announce limited space and check my bag for free. Believe me, it does work.

I want to put in a good word for the flight attendants on any flights I’ve been on. They have been great. No matter how crowded a flight is, except for reminding passengers to please take their seats so the attendant can close the door to the plane, these women and men have been cordial and accommodating. And we all need to remember that a flight attendant is there for the safety of the passengers, not to be a glorified waiter or waitress.

Despite all the good about typical airline flights, there are the occasional people problems. Some folks drink a little too much or don’t stay out of the already narrow aisles during beverage and food service. But I have to say that I haven’t encountered any passengers who were nasty to flight attendants or their fellow passengers.

Sadly, the two incidents that occurred recently with passengers never should have happened and airline apologies and accommodations really came too late. But the head of the flight attendants association pointed out that because we live in social media society, pictures and videos have become hot commodities, especially in law suits.

I have had some interesting seat mates. On one early morning flight, I arrived at my seat (one of two on a smaller plane) and was getting settled when the gentleman next to me abruptly stood up and demanded that the flight attendant seat him elsewhere. I knew I’d showered that morning, offered the guy a polite good morning but suddenly found myself alone.

On another occasion at the beginning of a flight a beautiful woman sitting next to me didn’t even say hello before spilling her story about how a philandering husband had traded her in (she was 40) for two 20s. She was just so angry. Relax guys, it wasn’t a fantasyland story.

I am a great listener, but I didn’t quite know how to react to that story other than to empathize, strongly agree with her viewpoint and hope that she wasn’t going to launch an all out attack on men. She was actually grateful I had listened and apologized for accosting me verbally when the flight landed.

I will say that express jets like the one we’ll be taking have also reminded me about keeping my weight under control. The seats in those puddle jumpers are definitely tighter so I try to distribute my blubber around so it won’t bother any seat mates. And I arrange for my wife and me to sit in aisle seats across from each other.

I am hoping, despite my little angst about our upcoming brief weekend flights will pass and we won’t encounter any incidents or rude passengers. Of course, that remains to be seen in those now very unpredictable “friendly” skies.