These days, both air passengers and flight attendants have good reason to be surly — which is exactly why we shouldn’t be.
By now, the world knows who Steven Slater is. He’s the JetBlue flight attendant who went off, literally, on a planeload of passengers at New York’s JFK airport, then popped one of the plane’s emergency slides and jumped out, grabbing a couple of beers on the way.
He says he blew up after:
- Some female passenger went bonkers getting her carry-on bag into the overhead bin (and fighting with another passenger for bin space) and refused to sit down while the plane was taking off.
- She let her carry-on bag fall on Slater’s head.
- She then hit him with an F-bomb when he chided her for her behavior
Since then, we’ve heard from flight attendants complaining about rude passengers, and from passengers griping about rude flight attendants.
American air travelers have chafed for decades at brusque, indifferent treatment at the hands of airline flight crews, complaints that have only grown more bitter as the airlines hit passengers with more fees and crammed them into increasingly uncomfortable Coach seats.
It’s pushed many American travelers, including this one, to seek out airlines from other countries over U.S.-based carriers on long-haul flights. You may not save money, but you’re definitely treated better.
But we passengers are hardly blameless. We cut in front of others waiting to board. We insist on cramming heavy cases the size of small cars into the overhead bins, heedless of the needs — or the safety — of anyone else. We lean on the Attendant Call button and glower if someone doesn’t instantly come running. We refuse to quiet our screaming children.
The list of things we do to make flying miserable could fill of a jumbo jet — and often does.
In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about a Passenger Bill of Rights. Since L’Affaire Slater, the folks at Smarter Travel are calling for a Passenger Code of Conduct.
All of this, however, is covered by a pre-existing statute: The Golden Rule. We seem to have forgotten that we’re all in this together, “this” being a pressurized aluminum tube seven miles above the Earth. Not the best place for an adversarial relationship.
Both sides need to cease fire and chill.
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