East of Paris Bookstore

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Friendly Skies?

Sunrise over Siberia 2010
I recently wrote about 10 things to take on each trip. An 11th item -- good manners -- must be added to that list.  You'd think it's obvious ...

By now millions of people have heard about the JetBlue flight attendant who slid down the emergency chute with a couple of beers.  He did a bit more than that, admittedly after some provocation from a rude passenger.  For details, go here.  He is alternately described as a disgruntled employee having a meltdown or a folk hero.  On the other hand, flying is not nearly as glamorous or nice as it used to be.

When I first began traveling, circa the days of Orville and Wilbur, even flying coach meant clean aircraft, decent airline food, and passengers dressing well.  It was smooth and efficient.  It was also expensive.  Now, flying has become the cheapest form of transportation between many cities, and a chore.  Even the first flight of the morning does not mean clean equipment, not to mention ever smaller more tightly packed seats.  The food, if any, leaves a lot to be desired.  And, dressing well has gone the way of the dodo. Then there are the security checks -- shoes on-off, jacket on-off, computer out of the case and on-off -- that leave one messy and exhausted and not necessarily safer.  Even psychologists agree that flying is a frustrating experience.

Overall, if my flight lands safely [so far, so good], I am happy.  When deplaning, I always make it a point to say "thank you" to the attendants who are standing at the door. And, on more than one occasion, simply being friendly and polite at check-in has yielded special treatment and upgrades. 

My best upgrade was on a New York to Moscow flight.  There was an extra check-in at the gate involving hundreds of passengers.  The person in front of me began loudly demanding an upgrade from business to first class and claiming that she always got automatic upgrades and so on.  The ticket agent insisted that no upgrades to first class were available.  Then came my turn.  I gave the agent a smile and said something like "tough day, isn't it?"  She smiled back, rolled her eyes, and taking my business class ticket she told me to stand near the desk for a moment.  The next thing I knew, she was handing me a new ticket for a first class seat.

I was not being polite that day to get an upgrade, I was merely empathizing with someone having the tough job of dealing with difficult people.  Saying "please" and "thank you" is easy.  Hearing nice words, whether or not they are directed to you, is, well, nice. Given the many inconveniences of travel, we should all resolve to make everyone's day friendlier in the skies and on the ground.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...