I have been spending the past few days working in my hangar, but yesterday I took a little break and sat at a local coffee house, had a designer coffee and read a few aviation blogs and email newsletters. At the end of my last trip I had started this post, but had not finished it, deferring instead to work that needed to be done on my plane. After reading those other posts though, I decided to finish what I had started writing since other people appear to be experiencing some of the same things that I have been.
Once your aviation career advances to jobs on the larger aircraft, you find yourself in a situation where you are required to work closely with other crew members both pilots and non-pilots and interact more often with ground personnel who service the aircraft and work with the passengers. Working on a multiple-person aircrew can often be a very rewarding experience. When your crew is professionally trained the process operates almost like clockwork, smoothly and professionally. Occasionally, however, you run into an individual (or individuals) who, for some reason, have decided to make the process hard.
These individuals appear to have a skewed attitude toward life in general. I’m not sure what the reason is. Perhaps somebody really screwed them in the past and they’re taking it out on those around them. Maybe on the inside they’re just unhappy people and try to pass it along. Maybe they feel like they’re ‘entitled’ and aren’t beeing treated as they deserve to be treated, or maybe they just feel trapped and frustrated at what has been going on in the airline industry the past few years. I’m sure these sorts of people are found in any profession. I seem to run into them once in a while as I’m out and about.
It is often said by non-rev travelers that they are treated better at other airlines than on their own. Does that make sense? Aren’t all the people at a given company in the same boat with a common goal to keep that boat floating upright? Did a few ‘entitled’ individuals generate a stereotype of the other workers that turned feelings agains those who followed them? Possibly.
Recently I had two trans-Pacific flights during which we, as the flight deck crew, were treated in completely opposite ways by the cabin crew. Both cabin crews were based at the same hub. On one flight we received a call from the cabin about every two hours asking if we were doing all right, needed anything or had to take a break. (With a two-pilot crew and the extra pilot(s) on their break out of the cockpit, a cabin crew member must come into the cockpit to man the door while one of the on-duty pilots takes a ‘physiological break.’) If there were extra meals or snacks available after the passengers were satisfied, they were offered to the flight deck workers. Everyone was happy, we got to know who we were working with and the time went by quickly.
The other flight, however, took forever. Three and a half hours after takeoff we had still not heard from anybody in the back. The captain called back and finally asked for a crew meal so that he could eat before he went on his break. He asked for the chicken and was told it would be ready in 20 minutes (click). Forty minutes later he called back again and was told it would by up in 2 minutes. He got up, checked the door, saw the meal on it’s way and opened the flight deck door. The tray was handed to him through the open and the individual turned around and waked away with not a word spoken… and he got the steak. Since we had a single additional pilot, we cut the flight time in thirds for our breaks and used those changeover times for our runs to the bathroom. At about 7 hours into the flight we made another call to the back to get the remaining crew meals. Same process. No verbal interactions at all from the cabin crew. We took the meal trays back to an empty galley after we had reached the destination gate, the cabin crew nowhere to be found.
Why the big difference in the two crews? Part of the tone is set by the lead cabin attendant/purser, but individuals interact according to their own attitudes. Some cabin crew members have no desire whatsoever to interact with the flight deck crew and, for whatever reason, they seem to be the ones who bid the positions that include providing flight deck service. Maybe they’re trying to ‘get even’ for some past events. Who knows.
I can’t imagine that these people are enjoying their jobs. And if they aren’t, then why are they still in them? Or maybe it’s the animosity that keeps them going on a day-to-day basis, gives them something to brag about to their fellow workers with similar outlooks. The danger is that these attitudes can begin to poison the whole organization, slowly growing through the workforce and end up being passed along to the customers who pay the bills.
Yes, the aviation business and specifically the airline business is not the same as it was ten years ago. We’re working longer and getting paid the same or less. Bit we’re all in the same boat, people. If you want to get mad at somebody, make it the company management or you local politician, not your fellow workers or the unsuspecting passengers. We’re all in this together.