Ranting ... This is a long 'un, feel free to skip it. (posted by Lani)
It's been a rough few weeks in the airline industry, as you probably know if you read the paper or watch the news at all. Unless you've been hiding under a rock, and I'm fairly sure you haven't, you've seen all the ugly stories about passengers stuck on planes for hours, ungodly delays at just about every airport in the country, tremendous numbers of cancellations leaving people stranded for days, you name it. I've been caught in that, and I'm bone tired, and my feet hurt, and I barely catch up on sleep before I've got another trip, and I haven't felt like posting because see above. But now I'm up on my soapbox, and just try to get me down. I'm pissed.
Those stories? Sadly, I'm sure a lot of the worst ones are true. But there are a lot of stories that aren't being told. I saw a story the other day about a flight that was rerouted to Baltimore, and the passengers weren't allowed off the plane. In the end, after hours in miserable conditions, the passengers revolted -- and TSA and Homeland Security boarded the plane and threatened them with arrest. The pilot and crew were blamed, and made to seem like uncaring monsters who called the cops on the poor passengers. Know what? I've been rerouted to Baltimore because of weather. And the people in the Baltimore airport REFUSED TO ALLOW OUR PASSENGERS TO DEPLANE. They actually LOCKED THE DOORS from the tarmac into the terminal and wouldn't let us in, saying so many planes had been diverted that they were overloaded and couldn't handle any more passengers in the terminal. Do I think that's what happened with the plane that made the news? I'd put money on it. But who got blamed? The hapless crew. Granted that particular crew almost certainly could have handled things better, but I can pretty damn well guarantee that (a) they didn't want to be stuck on a plane with no working lavatories, no food, no drinks, and insufficient air conditioning any more than their passengers did, and (b) when they called and said listen, ya'll, our passengers are rebelling, we have to let them off this plane, they did NOT know TSA was going to come on board and threaten people with arrest.
So just in case ya'll actually buy into the current attitude that every airline, every flight crew, every gate agent is unfeeling and uncaring, I'm here to tell you that's just not true. And just in case you think all the people out there are angry and hostile to us, that's not true either. Amidst all the unhappy stories, I've been seeing some of the good that you just don't hear about. Here's some of what I've seen through July and the beginning of August.
I've seen pilots take a stand on behalf of their passengers and flat out refuse to board them onto a plane with a broken a/c in 90+ degree weather until either the a/c was fixed or another aircraft was found, standing up for their passengers' rights despite attempts from all sides to make them back down (and make no mistake about it, there were some pretty ugly attempts to make them buckle under).
I've seen pilots and gate agents crawl into the dirty, sweltering cargo hold of a plane in that same 90+ degree weather to find bags for rerouted passengers who had to move fast to make their new connections. I've seen them do that even while the ramp personnel are threatening them with fines and official complaints, because they believed that what's right is right.
I've seen crews skip meal breaks for over 12 hours, trying to somehow get their flights back on schedule after a delay. Ever seen a crew member pass out on the jetway at 10pm because she hasn't had a chance to eat since 5am? I have.
I've seen crews caught in the weather messes work a 16 hour day, get minimum legal rest (that's 8 hours "behind doors" at the hotel ... not 8 hours sleep, 8 hours from when you walk into the room dead tired at night until you walk out fully dressed to head for the terminal in the morning) and then turn around and work another day just like it ... and not claim fatigue and cancel flights on their passengers, when they absolutely positively could have.
I've seen a supervisor at a gate throw a really quite impressive raving tantrum on the phone and convince Ops to un-cancel a flight, and then literally run down the concourse after the passengers who had been told the flight was cancelled to get them back onto the plane and on their way.
I've seen a gate agent walk onto my plane and collapse in exhausted, frustrated tears at the end of a horrible day of cancellations and angry passengers, and then pull herself back together and not only go back out there but go the extra mile for the passengers still in the airport at 1am, busting her ass to figure out how to get them where they wanted to go when what she really WANTED to do was throw her hands up and go home ... and she could have, because her shift had officially ended 4 hours earlier.
I've seen pilots radio ahead and somehow, don't ask me how, whine and wheedle and bribe and convince Ops to have a connecting flight wait for a sobbing pregnant passenger who had been cancelled and rerouted and otherwise stranded for two days and was going to miss her final flight, the flight that finally would have taken her home. (By the way, holding a flight is RARE, ya'll ... never, ever, ever count on it happening. Don't even bother to ask. It almost never happens, and there are a lot of very good reasons for that; it's not that we hate you, or we don't care, it's that holding a plane for a few people now can have ripple-down consequences to the entire flight schedule for the rest of the day. It sucks if you're one of those few people, but if it's going to inconvenience a few people now, or 6 flights full of people over the course of the rest of the day ... be realistic.)
I've seen an entire plane full of people sit patiently after landing and let that pregnant passenger, who was at the very rear of the plane, get off first -- not one single person trying to jump ahead even though all of them had been delayed and inconvenienced too.
I've seen passengers share food with one another, entertain the children on the flight, and help total strangers in almost every way possible.
I've seen an entire plane full of people who had just experienced a 6 hour delay of their scheduled flight THANK US for finally getting them there safely, and shake our hands on the way out of the airplane.
In the midst of all the nastiness that's been going on, there's good out there. And folks, there are people in this industry who are busting their asses. There are people out there who care. I work with a lot of them, and I'm proud to say that. It pisses me off to see all the negative press about the airline industry with not a single dissenting word, no voice speaking up for those people who take pride in their jobs and try hard to do them and do them well.
So, off my soapbox. I haven't knitted much lately. I haven't crocheted at all lately. I haven't read a book, or gardened, or done much of anything except fly, and then come home and eat and try to catch up on sleep and cuddle with Steve and the critters and then about the time I feel human again ... I leave and go back out. This has been a miserable summer. And guess what? At the end of next month I'll have been doing this for a year. And I still love it.
And you think YOU'RE crazy.