A Vote for Granny Flight Attendants
Here’s the stupidest thing I have read in a while (excluding American politics, of course.)
Akbar Al Baker, the head of Qatar Airways, recently criticized the blatant flaw in America commercial aviation – the age of its flight attendants.
He seemed to mean the females, ignoring the male ones.
Customers of American lines are "always being served by grandmothers," said Akbar Al Baker, who also called American carriers “crap.”
He’s half right, but that’s not the point. He noted that female attendants on his airline have an average age of 26, as if that were the major qualification for helping customers jammed together in a tin can in the sky.
Flying from Point A to Point B is not a fashion show or beauty pageant. Style was more important back in the day when service and amenities were better, when burly, hairy passengers did not wear shorts or sweatpants and chew on nasty-smelling fast food out of a paper bag.
Failing United even had thugs drag a bloodied passenger from a flight after he was randomly selected for termination by overbooking.
It’s all a good reason for staying home, which I do, after 50 years of travel. But one thing I know is that flight attendants could make things slightly better, and that your chances of expertise were often in direct ratio to a decade or three of experience.
Older attendants have been there and done that. When the airlines created havoc by charging for luggage, the attendants dealt with so-called carryons with a sense of authority and a feel for space. This is a generalization, but they did not get flustered. Solve the problem.
Many older attendants seemed to know stuff, could even drop a quip, if it looked like you might get it. I am blessed with being able to sleep on planes. Gone before the wheels leave the ground. One time I slept through a three or four-hour flight. Woke up on touch-down. An older attendant nodded and said, “very impressive.”
That was in coach. (The Times did not subsidize business travel for peons like me.) But when my wife was escorting children from India for adoption by others, her aunt – who worked at a great airline named Pan-Am; perhaps you have heard of it – often arranged an upgrade.
Those attendants saw her lugging one, two, once even three babies, and they found corners with more space and provided water, towels, food, whatever she needed. They were the best.
We all know that top executives, to please stockholders, have turned American carriers into hellish avatars of capitalism – your pass or your few extra dollars qualify you for a few more precious inches.
Airlines no longer respect family groups by encouraging agents to play with the computer to put families together. Pay a stipend – or sit in a middle seat surrounded by strangers. Tough. You should be rich. Your fault.
I’m not comparing attendants of Qatar with attendants on American carriers. Different cultures. I’ve seen uniformed attendants from the Emirates at the U.S. Open tennis, where their company was a sponsor -- their outfits fashionable, their demeanor modest, their posture superb, their smiles lovely; they represent their part of the world well.
But jammed into a torture chamber at 30,000 feet, wishing for one small favor with a touch of intuition, I’m opting for 40, 50, whatever. Older attendants notice stuff. Isn’t that what “service” means?
PS: Mr. Al-Baker recently issued an executive-style walking-back, or apology. Too late. We know what he thinks. See:
7/15/2017 03:06:32 pm
Dear George: I liked flying on American Airlines from Rio-NYC-Rio. The flight attendants are mature women and they made a great assistance to all passengers. Patience and sympathy. I think we had a great luck. Hope that that continues. In Brazil, we had a PAN AM. It was VARIG. Now it was closed.
7/15/2017 03:16:25 pm
Dear Altenir: No Varig?
7/15/2017 04:07:50 pm
Dear George: It’s sad, but VARIG, no more. I think the "Song of the Jet" (Samba do Avião), that was composed in 1962, Tom Jobim had composed it inside an aircraft from VARIG or PANAIR. They were the airlines operating on that date in Brazil.
7/16/2017 07:03:01 am
Qatar Airlines (they NEVER pronounce it "cutter") is a lead sponsor of the Martha Stewart Cooking School on NPR, in return for which she has been specializing in Arabian cuisine. I don 't know if that's an "on the other hand" or "a woman of a certain age has her proper place." I am also reminded of a Network TV show a couple of years ago called Pan Am, which was all about those glamorous flight amendments in the 1960's. It was possibly the worst written show on television, but it took two years before people stopped tuning in to look at those beautiful women in those glorious uniforms and see a by-gone era of courtesies. They represented the glamour of flying in those days. Today's flying is better represented by the uniforms in Lena Wurtmuller's Seven Beauties.
7/16/2017 07:06:30 am
ps. Thanks to my iPhone, "amendments" was meant to be "attendants."
7/16/2017 08:19:55 pm
Brian, thanks, they have an impossible job these days. People in coach know they are two-legged cargo, being squeezed for every penny. Doesn't make attendants' jobs easier. GV
7/16/2017 12:29:28 pm
7/16/2017 08:24:06 pm
I heard of a minor hustler in the NY building business who bought an airline and put his name on the planes. He was not much of a businessman and the airline moved on, and I guess he did, too. GV
7/16/2017 12:54:18 pm
It appears that deregulation has become synonymous with discomfort, both in the scheduling of flights and in-seat comfort.
7/16/2017 08:21:51 pm
Alan: You know who took a nap every day? Yogi. GV
7/17/2017 09:36:27 am
George, Did not know that. It adds to the reasons that Yogi was my favorite.
7/16/2017 02:40:36 pm
My grandmothers were never flight attendants but they each made delicious soup. I imagine they would provide blankets free of charge to passengers who asked.
7/16/2017 08:20:54 pm
Mendel: I am sure they would -- until the stockholders busted them for being too generous. GV
7/16/2017 04:33:32 pm
7/16/2017 08:28:10 pm
Bruce: I got chopsticks with a very nice bento meal on American, Dallas-Narita. But I used miles to upgrade to business.
7/16/2017 09:16:09 pm
7/17/2017 02:16:45 am
A shout out to Alan Rubin and his daughter, Jen. Alan has written on this blog about his store, Radio Clinic. Now it turns out that Jen is writing a book about it, and had a piece in the New York Times about it on Friday: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/14/opinion/small-businesses-new-york-city.html
7/17/2017 08:24:11 am
Gene, thanks for noticing all these accomplishments. I know Alan and Sandi, and know there is a great book in that store, and that time.
7/17/2017 10:08:45 pm
George, "The Girl From Human Street" is an amazing read.
7/17/2017 09:38:32 am
Gene-thanks for your kind words.
Comments are closed.
“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.