The following piece was written by the author Ann Hood and is taken from the op-ed page of the New York Times of December 23, 2008. Ann Hood was a Flight Attendant for T.W.A. for eight years. So, as Ol Blue Eyes used to sing, Come Fly With Me !
"I know the days are gone when attendants could be written up if we did not put the linen napkins with the TWA logo embossed on them in the lower right-hand corner of the first class diners' trays. As are the days when there were three dinner options on flights from Boston to Los Angeles - in coach. When, once, stuck on a tarmac in Newark for four hours, a planeload of passengers got McDonald's hamburgers and fries courtesy of the airline.
I have experienced the decline of service along with the rest of the flying public. But I believe I have felt it more acutely, because I remember the days when to fly was to soar. The airlines, and their employees, took pride in how their passengers were treated. A friend who flew for Pan Am and I have a friendly rivalry over which airline was better. Friendly, yes. But we each believe we worked for the best.
We tell stories about cooking lamb chops and dressing them in foil pantaloons; we debate the beauty of my Ralph Lauren uniform versus her Oleg Cassini. I like to tell her how we would have the children on board serve the after-dinner mints, delicious pale green circles with T.W.A. stamped on them, arranged on a silver tray. We remember the service we provided - dare I say cheerfully? Happily? Proudly? And when my friend and I part ways, although we hold on to our allegiances, we know that all of our passengers were served well.
Now, passengers aren't served at all. During the meal-less flight, with scowling lfight attendants who have snickered when I asked for a blanket and the seat pockets crowded with trash, I cannot help but remember how we passed out magazines, offered playing cards to bored passengers, refilled coffee cups. If we didn't, passengerscomplained. We had a stack of complaint cards at the ready, right next to the dry-cleaning vouchers we handed out if we spilled anything on someone.
....I remember the first time I stepped onto a Lockheed L-1011 as a flight attendant in 1979. I marveled at the beauty of that plane. I put on my apron with my name across the top, and 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.
Airlines offer valid excuses for cutting back service. But what are they gaining when passengers leave a flight disgruntled, mistreated, and hungry? It is surprising how easy it is to please passengers. Cereal and lots of coffee in the morning can do wonders for someone who had to leave home at 4 a.m. Pretzels and peanuts handed out with drinks make a difference in an era of flight cancellations and long security lines.
What works best of all, of course, is a smile. I trained for six weeks to become a flight attendant. Although the main focus was safety, I spent almost as much time learning good service. Airline employees' frustration and exasperation are all too evident to their passengers.
When I was hired, we had a joke that to get the job we had to answer every question with, "I love people and I love to travel." But it was true. I loved bantering with businessmen and talking about books with passengers. I looked forward to them telling me where they had been and where they were going.
I know times are tough for the airlines, but things weren't any better when I was flying. The oil crises of the '70s brought not just long lines at the pump but mandatory unpaid furloughs for us in the air. And then came deregulation; our jobs felt as precarious as airline jobs do today.
Yet even so, we had dignity, passengers and crews alike. We were together up there at 35,000 feet, and for those hours in the clouds and stars, all of our worries stayed on the ground below."
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