Come fly the friendly skies
Come fly the friendly skies was United Airlines’ iconic motto for years. And it used to be a feeling you’d get when being welcomed onboard almost every airline. Back in the days of Pan Am and TWA flying was special and both passengers and crew treated it that way. Not perhaps so much today.
In today’s world it feels more like the unfriendly skies, especially if you’re traveling domestically in the United States (which may be one of the worst airline markets in the world). Today in the US aeroplanes feel more like buses; politeness is out the window and smiles are left on the ground; Gate Agents are grumpy and looking to tell you what they can’t do rather than what they can do and predictably passengers are also surly. It’s not a pretty picture for the American flying public.
However we can still depend on the Asian and Middle Eastern carriers to be as friendly as ever.
But why? How can Asian and Mideast Airlines operate so much differently than their Western counterparts?
I think there are a few factors at play here. Firstly the glamour has gone away from airlines.
Airlines’ pay is not what it used to be. In the “good old days” an American air crew used to be well compensated and also have a mini vacation staying a few days at each destination. In today’s world if you fly from London to San Francisco you get one night to recover. That’s it. So conditions are definitely worse for the Flight Attendants while at the same time their pay is far less than it used to be. US Airlines may be back to making large profits but the Airline staff are definitely not seeing the benefits.
Another reason air crews aren’t happy is that they’re burned out. For the most part for an American FA (Flight Attendant) it takes years of flying regionally and domestically before they’ll ever get the chance to venture into international destinations. Speak with you FA and you’ll see just how long they’ve been slogging away. You may be shocked.
If you are a Flight Attendant starting out today you are going to be working very, very hard. Your day can be flying from New York to Miami, back to New York, back to Miami and then right back to where you started in New York all in one shift. You never get off the plane and so there’s no real appeal for the job. And throughout most FAs complain about being understaffed in the cabin.
Singapore Airlines and other Asian carriers still have more crew than any other airlines in the world
On a 747 Singapore Airlines can have 14 Flight Attendants while British Airways will only having nine. Being overworked and overtired is not a good way to motivate a happy team member
Here is the other part, maybe we are all to blame as well.
In general most passengers don’t dress up or try to be well mannered on aeroplanes any more.
We live busy lives and we all have a million things on our mind and passengers are often distracted with their computers, watching movies, listening to music or playing games and generally ignoring the world around them. I’ve seen this scenario many times; during a meal service a passenger won’t even acknowledge a Flight Attendant or they talk on their mobile during the safety video announcement. This is just plain rude. I understand why FAs feel disheartened. A combo of tough working conditions and rude passengers isn’t an easy thing to deal with EVERYDAY.
We can’t really change the airlines’ work conditions but we can change our own behavior. We can be civilized, polite and respectful. The next time you smile at a Flight Attendant and say thank you, I bet they smile right back at you. These little gestures will help the experience of flying immensely and let us all feel like we’re back in the friendly skies once again.
Daniel Green, the Model Cook is a Celebrity Chef known for his healthy approach to food and living well. With TV, books, magazines and live appearances, Daniel spends his time helping fans to cook better, feel better and live better. He’s also an avid traveler and a self-confessed Foodie.