In Flight Patience

“Jack” and  “Jill” (I don’t want to know their real names, but we’ll call them J&J!) were sitting across the isle from each other, one row behind me, on a full cross-country flight.  It seemed they both wanted aisle seats!  They were apparently well acquainted, though their exact relationship isn’t important.  But what is important are the behaviors they demonstrated while in flight.  With little regard for those around them, they were both rude and obnoxious.
It became apparent to the nearly a dozen people within earshot that Jill was unhappy with the way she was treated by a customer service agent. Obviously, I don’t know all the details of her experience, nor can I judge if her frustration was warranted.  The exchange between them was heated, and verbally graphic, perhaps even a bit vulgar.  Making matters worse, Jack wasn’t making any effort to calm Jill down.  In fact, it sounded like he was trying to rile her up even more.
Both while still on the ground, and once in flight, unless the crew believed Jack and Jill posed a danger to themselves or other passengers, there was little chance anyone from the crew would say anything or try to intervene, especially since no one else on the flight complained about the unruly pair.
Certainly these are not the first, nor the last people to have a customer service experience that didn’t go as they had hoped.  I’d guess that each of us has wanted to rip a CSR a new one at least once.  But you’ve got to wonder whether J&J’s exchange needed to be aired out so loudly in such a public space with such a captive audience.  Surely they could have discussed the situation more calmly and at a lower volume that wouldn’t have disturbed a bunch of other folks on their flight.
Once upon a time going to an airport and taking a flight somewhere was an experience to be savored.  But the commoditization of air travel has become a string of compromises that frequently make the entire process of getting to and from the airport, waiting for the flight, and the flight itself, an uncomfortable nuisance.  Between TSA baggage and personal screenings, the airlines’ encouragement to be at the airport one and half to two hours before a domestic flight, or two to three hours before an international departure; shrinking passenger space; fewer restrooms; less beverage and food service; and add-on fees for pillows, blankets, earphones, and checked baggage, flying is no longer fun!  Add to that irate passengers like J&J and screaming babies, and you have a recipe for discomfort that requires major endurance and patience on the part of fellow passengers and the flight crew.   And unhappy campers like J&J don’t make a flight crew’s job any easier!
Unfortunately, we don’t usually give much positive thought to all the people involved with getting us to our destinations.  Although a few of these jobs were once thought of as glamorous, none of them are perceived as such today.  After our reservations have been made and tickets purchased online, we then start to see only a fraction of the folks whose jobs intersect with our travel plans.  Airport operations personnel, TSA agents, and other non-airline specific workers are the first we encounter.  Pilots and cockpit crews do most of the heavy lifting, along with those in air traffic control centers and towers, though we rarely see them. Most of our interaction is with the flight crews on the ground and on board the aircraft. And we can’t forget the ground crews who guide the planes in and out of the gates, and the baggage handlers who we hope are motivated to get our bags to the proper destination.  The airlines may include fewer perks with the purchase of our tickets, but the jobs surrounding those flights haven’t gotten any easier.
Sure, we all get frustrated when circumstances out of our control cause delays.  Screaming infants and their befuddled parents in the seats behind you aren’t helping ease your nerves.  And passengers like J&J further add to travel stress.  Even if your preflight prep goes smoothly, and your post flight arrangements are without concern, things happen before and during the flight that can try even the calmest traveler.
When it comes to air travel, we must accept that we have little control over what happens after we leave our homes.  Yes, we choose the airline, the time we want to fly and our seats, but after that, we must hope for the best.  Those in control of the aircraft, the flight control tower, the attendant crew, and the rest, are all doing their jobs (hopefully, their best!) to get us to our destinations safely and on time.  Patience with the whole process, though not always easy to muster, is a necessity.  Take a deep breath, you’ll be at your destination before you know it, and hopefully never have to deal with J&J again!  (And if they are on your flight, a good pair of earplugs can do wonders!)
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