October 6, 2010

A Bully Can Use the Law for Threats!

This article also appeared in the Springfield News Leader

Read/Post Comments (4)

     After our Delta Airlines flight was loaded in Athens for the eleven hour flight to Atlanta, and we were in the air, the following message came to us over the intercom:

Congress has passed a law saying that if you are traveling in economy class it’s against the law to use any restroom not in economy class, or to congregate around rest rooms in economy class. It is against the law to go through the curtain separating the economy class [?from the real, paying passengers-implied?] for ANY reason!!! Don’t break the law!!

     There were snickers and jokes passed around among the 181 people in economy class, sharing 4 WCs. (There were 25, or so, people sharing the two WCs in the “other” class, up front.)

     After snacks and dinner, five or six hours in to the flight, bodily urges made a trip to one of the four “WCs” absolutely necessary. We weren’t sure about the acceptable process. When I got to the two WCs at the back of the plane they were both occupied and each had one person waiting. I asked one of the four stewards and stewardesses working nearby whether I could wait for one of the WCs to be vacated, or would that be considered “congregating”? Without a smile, she looked up from her writing and said,

Well, actually, there is a $10,000 fine for waiting and the FAA hands out their fines liberally [when the ‘law-breakers’ are reported to them by the airplane personnel]!”

     She looked back to her writing. I waited. When one became vacant, I went inside. The condition of the WC reflected the constant use of 181 people, in spite of the potential that they could become law-breakers in the process.

     One may wonder: Has Congress turned Delta personnel into tattle tales, or snitches? Are Delta personnel ‘facilitating’ criminal activity when they provide a constant stream of water to customers and then restricting their access to relief from full bladders? If Delta is compensated from the $10,000 fines for the additional duties of their staff, does that put the staff into a conflicting position of fundraiser/policeman?

     Finally, when they announce that “Congress has passed a law…” when, and why was this law passed, and by whom??? If it was “passed” at all…. Could it be an agency (FAA) rule, with only the framework “authorized” by “Congress?” And did “Congress” anticipate that the economy passengers in the back of the plane would have to guess exactly what was going to be expected to be of them, in order to remain good citizens?

     No matter what the answer was or is, if a person discovers that she may have broken a new, unexpected law, she will have to live with the penalty, or live with the long and expensive process of attempting to change the “law.”

Posted by Peggy S. Hedrick at 11:42am

Click here to comment:

Airline travel has certainly changed over the years….From a service for the privileged class it has become mass transit. Surveys show that Americans care only about price when they book flights, so what we get is cut-rate travel in a highly competitive industry. We are supposed to be "capitalists" after all, aren't we……? (I'm a bit disillusioned with our breed of capitalism these days.)

But no airline consistently makes money, so they try everything. Even threatening to charge for potty use!

Also, since we all agreed airline meals were bad, we don't get them anymore……The old adage that you don't appreciate something until it goes away……along with legroom and an empty seat.

I do think though, that there is no excuse for the Flight Attendants on that Delta flight to be rude. And they were rude--- to take advantage of their passengers with that kind of intimidation with nonsensical announcements. They have a job to do---and on that flight, they didn't do it--- so it would be okay by me if they were called on the carpet. The job has changed, so live with it. We still have an obligation to be human beings, especially on a long international flight like that, which is always a pain.

Either that flight was an anomaly, or Delta has a serious problem with their corporate attitude.
Posted by Wally Rees on 10/21/2010 at 6:43am

This is a "cranky flight attendant story" if I ever heard one. They were tired and wanted to read their books…and perhaps have some (dark) sport with the passengers. It sounds like the last leg on a 4-day trip. I am sure there is no such "law," and the announcements were not sanctioned by Delta. In fact if your news article gets good circulation there will be repercussions for the crew from "human resources," which would not be a bad thing. But I guess it's a good thing we can't hear what's being said on all those 6,000 flights which are in the air at this moment.

Along those lines, IMHO--

Airline service and airline crews have not really changed much over the years, except for the better, even with the 911 experience. Agents and crews are sometimes nasty, but usually friendly and courteous. Just like always. Flights are nearly always safe and on time in good weather, though occasionally there are horrible delays stuck on the tarmac which are stupid and uncalled for. Accidents are practically unheard of--which is a big change.

But what has really changed are the passengers. Our culture is a lot more angry than it used to be, as reflected in current politics. The media, internet are no help. I don't think the malcontent attitude originates with airline travel, but uses it as an excuse to bubble to the surface.

Whatever the case, people traveling on airplanes are angry even when the service is good and the flight is on time.

As an avid people watcher with many years of airport experience, lately I see most people as just plain miserable walking down the concourse. They have miserable expectations. I can count on one hand all the "pleases" and "thank you's" I have heard in the last 10 years. So the agents and crews get frustrated…and the vicious cycle continues.

If you'd like a real conversation stopper to spring on your friends, try this true story: "Norma and I just flew from Pittsburgh to New York City and back to see Luke for his 40th B'day, and to take a bite out of the Big Apple. All the flights were right on time or early. All of the agents and flight crews were friendly and courteous, and made good announcements. The airplane lavs were clean. The people in New York were pleasant and helpful, including cab drivers, waiters, traffic cops, desk clerks. We felt completely safe. We had a marvelous time browsing the fresh produce market in Washington Square in the Greenwich Village area. Deli food was delicious! The whole trip was great fun. We over-tipped and over-thanked everyone 'just because we could'." All true.

Your friends will mutter under their breath..."What have they been smokin'!"
Posted by Wally Rees on 10/18/2010 at 7:05am

Thanks for your response to my post! Your perspective adds a lot to the discussionI

I did not feel that anybody was rude or neglected their duties on that flight, or any other and I did not write the blog in order to have any individual called on the carpet because of the announcement. But the announcement was not appropriate. It did cause a stir and one could say that it unnecessarily raised the stress level among the passengers. Your analysis rang true.

If we feel any anger, though, as passengers, I expect it would not be aimed at staff –but maybe, since 9-11 to the “unknown,” as a result of the metamorphosis in the industry. Regular overbooking, full flights, discomfort related to moving seats closer together, outrageous charges for food, and services that have for years and years be “complimentary” and unpredictable charges for baggage all of which are different from one airline to another and one flight to another, and according to weight, measurements, and, possibly content.

i.e., on a recent flight a dog focused on one of my bags when we were collecting our luggage to go through customs. My bag was opened on the spot, and contents examined right there on the floor by the baggage pickup, as curious (and sympathetic??) fellow travelers moved around us, to get through customs themselves. Didn’t find anything – and decided that it may have been a piece of cheese that had been in the suitcase on a previous trip. The guard, staff, and the dog, were all very courteous. But I must admit that I felt insecure, not knowing what they were looking for, or what else might delay, or complicate our journey home.
Posted by Peggy Hedrick on 10/21/2010 at 6:43am

I just posted it on the Delta page in FB…we’ll see if you get any comments.
Posted by Kay Hedrick on 10/8/2010 at 7:17pm

I think Delta needs to read your post!
Posted by Kay Hedrick on 10/7/2010 at 12:50pm
Me too. Do you know which address would bring it to their (Delta’s) attention?
Posted by Peggy Hedrick on 10/8/2010 at 8:12am