Air travel observations of a former flight attendant

“A gate agent stood on the counter and shouted: ‘Don’t ask us for help! We cannot help you!'” is one of the lines in Ann Hood’s recent and enlightening Op-Ed piece “Up, Up and Go Away” in the New York Times. Hood, now a novelist–her latest novel is Knitting Circle, was a flight attendant back in the day where there were meal choices and the idea that flying was special.

Hood’s essay of comparing and contrasting air travel then and now was prompted by a recent trip she took to Rhode Island where the plane didn’t get her there. It wasn’t exactly the airlines’ fault that she and a few other passengers rented a van in Charlotte, N.C. after they arrived at the airport from Miami for a connecting flight. Upon arrival at the Charlotte airport, they found out there wasn’t going to be a plane to Rhode Island for quite some time. Bad weather had created the snafu. People were facing days of waiting.

Along with looking back on how flying used to be in the good old days, Hood makes an interesting connection between the state of air travel then and now. In the 1970s, when she worked for TWA., there was a fuel crisis and flight attendants had mandatory unpaid furloughs. From what she writes, it seems as though courtesy towards passengers never wavered despite the economy.

From what I gather, Hood thinks that airlines are creating problems by not ensuring that passengers are treated well. In her mind, what good is it if passengers get off of an airplane feeling disgruntled? I have to say that I’ve generally been lucky when it comes to courtesy, although I did have Hood’s experience where the ticket counter folks were nonchalant in their treatment of stranded passengers. I haven’t flown that airlines since then.

There’s nothing worse when travel is not going well when the people who are supposed to help things run smoothly say, “We cannot help.”

At that point I wonder, who will? In Hood’s case, when you’re stranded at an airport, you help yourself.

(The photo by gas_station_sushi is of a TWA airplane in the 1960s.)