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Thursday, August 12, 2010

It Wouldn't Have Happened on Alaska Airlines

It didn't really surprise me that the JetBlue flight attendant finally cracked after an altercation with a female passenger who cursed him, leading to his deplaning by the emergency exit slide. I think flight attendants are the canaries in the coal mine of air travel. Standing alone at the front of the airplane, they are perfect targets for the anger and fear of their passengers and have to bear the brunt of it since no one can get at the pilot and copilot who are locked in the cockpit. Since 9-11, so many things have made travel uncomfortable and, in some cases, so unpleasant that it is a wonder that no one has cracked before now. Add to that the general decline in civility and respect for other people and you have a pretty nasty brew of fear, anger, and incivility in an enclosed space with draconian rules on movement in the cabin. (I remember when it was not mandatory to wear seat belts on air planes.)
In Alaska, people can be rude, but I suspect there is far more respect for air travel professionals since so much of our travel is by air. We depend on jet pilots and bush pilots and flight attendants and baggage crews and mechanics to get us to where we want to go because we can't get to most places in Alaska by ourselves, i.e. by car. All of us have endured terrifying flights that have ended on the runway with the passengers wildly applauding. Most of us also know people who have perished in air planes and we realize that those who keep us flying are doing so at some risk to themselves. Sacrifice engenders respect. If the Jet Blue flight attendant had been treated respectfully, none of this would have happened.

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