Attitude at Altitude Part 1

by Steve Brock on August 12, 2010

You can’t help but wonder about all the hoopla this week regarding the Jet Blue flight attendant, Steven Slater, who got fed up with an unruly passenger, cursed out the person over the intercom and then fled the plane by deploying the emergency slide. This occurred three days ago and now he’s being derided by some of the passengers on that flight as rude yet hailed by many in the general population as a hero. Here’s the background story:  

I have mixed feelings about the reaction. On the one hand, all of us who fly regularly see repeated acts of discourteous behavior from passengers. So I empathize with the frustration. But on the other hand, we all get frustrated with our jobs and with others at times, but that doesn’t give us license to publicly humiliate people, grab a couple of brewskies and play slip-n-slide with the emergency exit.

 So I don’t look at Steven Slater, the flight attendant, as any kind of hero or role model. I think he simply reflects our own wish fulfillment some days to act out on our emotions, especially under stress. I do, however, see him as a reminder to the rest of us that meaningful travel doesn’t always mean making the experience meaningful for just us. Sometimes we need to go out of our way to make it a good experience for those who make our travel possible. Like flight attendants.

Let me give you an example here and another in my next entry.

My sister-in-law, Lori, flies a lot and has elite status on one of the airlines. Thus, she sometimes gets bumped up to first class, which is what happened recently on a trip with her family. Instead of taking the upgrade herself, she offered to let my brother Doug sit up front. He accepted and soon found himself enjoying the extra space and free food and drinks. But he then did something that caused the flight attendant to take notice.

The flight attendant had just provided Doug with a glass (not a plastic cup) of my brother’s requested beverage. My brother voiced his appreciation and assumed that was the end of the transaction. But the flight attendant continued to stand there. Finally, he said to Doug, “You don’t fly in first class much, do you?” Thinking he may somehow have been busted for using his wife’s ticket, Doug rather sheepishly admitted, “No. This is my first time.” The flight attendant smiled, nodded his head and said, “I thought so.”

Doug asked him why and in a very matter-of-fact manner the flight attendant replied, “Because you said “Thank you.””

How sad.

If more of us said those two little words of appreciation more often while flying – or anywhere – we wouldn’t be gabbing online and over the water cooler this week about the story of Steven Slater’s outrage and dramatic exit.

There wouldn’t be a story.

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