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Archive for the ‘Ann Hood’ Category

I was tempted to cheer when I read the NY Times op-ed piece today “Up, Up and Go Away” by Ann Hood about the declining level of airline services and perks. She reminisces about a time many of us vaguely remember when flight attendants distributed mints, playing cards, and cheerful banter. (OK, I think there’s still a lot of cheerful banter or maybe that’s just because my last flight was on Southwest where “ability to engage in cheerful banter preferably over the microphone when reciting the requisite safety precautions for the 14,367th time” is in the job description.) She reminds us that we once had a choice between three different hot meals no matter where you sat on the plane. We joked about airline food, but hey, at least we had food back then and it wasn’t always bad enough to deserve being the target of our jokes.

Yep, she really had me going until I got to this line.

I smiled at the people who had saved up their money, put on their Sunday best, and chosen T.W.A. It was not so long ago that flying had that civility, that glamour, when flying through the sky really felt like something special.

When, oh when was the last time you saw a plane full of people who saved up their money and put on their Sunday best to fly? And what level of civility do passengers afford the crew and flight attendants? It’s hard to know which came first, the scowling flight attendant or the rude passenger. Or maybe it’s just a sign of the times – a time when a sense of entitlement, selfishness, and instant gratification seem rampant throughout our country. I see evidence of it in large and subtle ways.

Look at the number of people in the airport, including some in the bathrooms, talking loudly on their cell phone creating a cacophony that makes it impossible to think, much less relax and read. Those of us who discretely step aside to a semi-private location to carry on our telephone business are in the minority. It may not be the answer and I can’t say that I’ve changed anyone’s behavior, but if my seatmate is talking loudly prior to take off and I can’t concentrate on my book, I read out loud. Very loudly. (I’m thinking about promoting this through my social networks. Anyone got a name for my campaign?) Just recently I made a comment to a fellow traveler while waiting at baggage claim. No response. I repeated my comment. No response. Later I realized that she had no idea I was talking to her. We are so accustomed to hearing people talking to an implant in their ear that we no longer communicate directly, much less civilly to each other.

We no longer see each other as people with whom we can interact. Instead, we are competing with each other to get our own. As she mentions in her article, a canceled flight results in a mob running from terminal to terminal in search for a flight out. Whoever gets there first or has Platinum status and a cell phone is elbowing to get the last of the seats out of town.

We saw this competition at its extreme on the first shopping day after Thanksgiving when shoppers at a NY Walmart trampled an employee to death storming the doors at opening time. This wasn’t about rushing to get home to loved ones. It was pure greed and selfishness.

Yeah, the article made me nostalgic for the days when flying felt like a treat, when we – passengers and crews alike had dignity and left all of our worries on the ground below. But it will take more than just a re-engineering of the airline business to bring that level of civility back. One bright spot of hope in her article…six strangers from the canceled flight cooperated to share a rented van and drove throught the night together to get home. We are all in it together and we fly or falter together.

My you have safe and travels this holiday season filled with civility even if you don’t get an after dinner mint offered to you on a silver tray.

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