Galley Gossip: What is RIGHT with the airlines? (There’s got to be something!)

When I was growing up, my parents taught me that traveling by airplane was a luxury, not a right, and it was a luxury I would not experience until I was 16 years old when I flew to Los Angeles, California with a high school friend (and her mother) on American Airlines for an exciting weekend getaway. I’ll never forget that flight. Then, at 17, I flew to Santa Clara, California, to visit a boyfriend in college on Southwest Airlines. I’ll never forget that flight, either. I couldn’t even believe I was on it. Back then just being on the flight itself was an exciting experience, never mind the drinks and the food and the service, which I don’t even remember. But I’m sure a can of coke and a bag of peanuts were involved.

What I remember most about those two flights was the awe of flying, of looking out the window at the tiny houses below as we climbed up, up, up, until the incredible view became obstructed by something even more magnificent, billowing clouds.

A few years ago I actually met a flight attendant whose very first trip by airplane was to airline headquarters for an interview for the airline he works for now. That flight took place at age of 21. Today, things have changed drastically in the aviation business, and not for the better, if you ask a passenger. Yet the flights are all full, and with more and more children traveling these days. That, alone, makes me wonder, has travel really gotten so bad? Or are our expectations skewed?

“I never got to travel,” said my mother, a flight attendant, who started working for a major US carrier in 1997, three afters I had my wings pinned to my blue lapel. “My first flight was with your father to Hawaii, when I was 21, because your father got stationed there in the navy. I got to go home to Texas once – in three years. And because your father spent most of his time at sea, I spent many holidays alone. That’s just the way it was. We couldn’t afford to travel.”

Now that I’m a flight attendant and have the opportunity to fly for free (in coach), I usually take along my two-year son, who has traveled once a month, at least, since he was born. I always get a kick out of watching him leaning against the window, tapping on the glass, as we fly in and out of the clouds, causing him to exclaim at the top of his lungs, “WOW!” I wonder if he’ll grow up to appreciate the privilege of travel? I do hope that one day he realizes just how lucky he is. How lucky we all are to be able to get from point A to point B for just a few hundred dollars.

As someone who works for a major US carrier, someone who has to deal with the me me me first attitude of the flying public, passengers who expect something for nothing when fuel prices keep rising and ticket prices remain fairly low, I have to say, there’s something wrong with THAT. There’s something wrong when you can purchase a one way ticket from New York to Las Vegas for lower than a cab ride from New York’s JFK international airport to Manhattan. NOT WHEN everyone and their mother (as well as the kids) are traveling on my flight.

Not that I mind that everyone and their mother (along with the kids) are aboard my flight, just the opposite, in fact. Especially when airlines are struggling to stay afloat, when airlines like Alitalia are on the verge of going out of business. However, it’s not easy for me to listen to all the complaining about air travel, particularly about customer service. Seriously, I have hard time believing that flying is all that bad, no matter how much the airline charges per bag, how long the security lines, how small the seats, or how much it costs to purchase a sandwich, or how old the flight attendant. And why does the age of a flight attendant even matter? (This is the 2000’s, is it not?)

After reading letters from readers who responded to the question, What’s wrong with American Airlines? on the Dallas Morning News website, I am forced to pose the question, what is RIGHT with the airlines? I mean whatever happened to the glass is half full mentality? It seems like these days all people want to do is complain, complain about everything, particularly when it comes to bashing airlines and flight attendants. Come on now, there has to be SOMETHING good about air travel, right?