John Stancavage: American Airlines employees also feeling turbulence
BY JOHN STANCAVAGE World Business Editor
Sunday, September 30, 2012
9/30/12 at 5:58 AM
On a vacation last week, our American Airlines flight into Dallas was running late, as had every other leg of this trek to and from California.
After landing, we sat on the tarmac, breathing jet fumes, until the pilot came on the intercom.
"We can't seem to find a gate agent," he said. "So there's no one to pull up the skybridge.
"Apparently," he continued, his voice a mix of sarcasm and exasperation, "we took them by surprise."
That was just one of many vignettes of unpleasantness that racked up like pinball points on this trip. In fact, I often felt like a pinball myself, launched at high speed only to get slapped around.
Some other tales of woe during our time in the air included:
I hadn't flown American this year and had wondered what it would be like to travel on an airline that was embroiled in such a contentious bankruptcy.
- We were informed that our flaps were stuck on approach. "That's why we'll be followed by fire trucks after landing."
- Another flight was delayed by a broken coffee maker.
- No food, not even a microbag of peanuts, was supplied on a three-hour flight. A separate flight was completed without beverages.
There's been plenty of criticism about how air travel has declined from a fun experience to a mind- and body-numbing ordeal. I've written several of those columns.
But as eye-rolling as the travel experience was on this trip, I found myself feeling sorry for the employees of what once was by far the leader in the industry.
This is unbearable for me, I thought, and it's only two days of my week. What if this was my daily work environment?
To carry on at your job, when you don't know how much longer it will exist, would be stressful enough. Add in working years without a raise, and the mental strain would be multiplied.
Now take all of that and try to keep performing at a high level in an industry where there are no "slow" days, the threat of terrorism still lurks and even small oversights can put lives in danger.
I don't endorse strategies that would intentionally cause delays, if indeed those are being used. But I can understand how this pressure could lead to grouchy flight crews or agents getting distracted.
I hope the bankruptcy will lead to a situation where these folks can feel properly rewarded again.
Right now, I am impressed with those American workers who are continuing to give 110 percent.
A harried, but ultra-helpful AA skycap in San Jose chased my wife down after she gave him a tip and almost kissed her. Apparently, with mandatory bag fees now the norm, these employees don't see as many decent gratuities.
"Thank you, thank you," he said sincerely, shaking our hands.
No, thank you, sir.
Original Print Headline: Employees also feeling turbulence Flying AA also tough on workers Air travel now a test of patience