The husband and I were impressed by the cheerful, attentive service on our KLM flights between New York and Amsterdam this spring. It was quite a contrast to what we’ve been finding on domestic flights of late. But I don’t blame U.S. flight attendants.
Some people do blame them, though. According to a story in USA Today, tensions between passengers and flight attendants, exacerbated by crowded flights and airports, have been getting worse. Confrontations are on the increase.
I’m not suggesting that flight crews are always blameless in disputes with passengers. I’ve certainly seen passengers behaving unreasonably, but I’ve also seen flight attendants being discourteous.
It’s important to remember, though, that most flight attendants employed by U.S. airlines are working harder for less money than ever before. They’ve watched their jobs get more demanding while their standard of living has fallen. Lately, many are feeling demoralized – and betrayed – by large bonuses for airline executives.
This isn’t happening to European flight attendants. One KLM attendant told us that he earns about the same as an American flight attendant while working half as many hours. Not only that, he said, but European carriers tend to have larger crews, so each flight attendant has fewer passengers to serve.
No, that doesn’t mean every flight attendant is automatically right all the time. But I think it does mean that we should at least try to extend them some sympathy.