My recent story entitled Flight Attendant Revolt Over New United Premium Transcontinental Service created a firestorm of controversy.
Many United FAs chimed in, condemning me for addressing the topic in the manner in which I did. Several FAs emailed me as well, arguing that my facts were incorrect. While I stand by my original piece and believe the comments verify what a contentious issue this is, I do want to clarify two things. First, I do not believe FAs (as a whole) are lazy. On the contrary, I believe most United FAs are hardworking and love their jobs. Two, I should have better articulated one FA concern: that people in the back of the plane will have to wait far longer than before to be served under the new premium service protocols. I still dismiss this concern because distributing a complimentary meal will take less time than the buy-on-board model of asking people what they want, finding it in the cart, then charging their credit card.
An FA Op-Ed: Matthew is Wrong
One email I received was so detailed and heartfelt that I want to include it for your review, unedited–
Your recent blog, “Flight Attendant Revolt Over New United Premium Transcontinental Service,” which suggests that Flight Attendants are lazy is insulting, and vastly incorrect. You have done a huge disservice to Flight Attendants- not just at United, by at every major U-S carrier.
You’ve influenced the minds of your readers to think that all we want to do is finish the service so we can hide in the galley and chit-chat. How would you feel if I publicly made uneducated assertions that you were a lazy writer who didn’t thoroughly research your subject?
Your use of information gained from accessing private Facebook groups is outrageous. Imagine the conversations that go on about any company, in any industry in these types of groups. Employees tend to vent to one another about the routine frustrations of any job. Your subsequent publishing of these conversations as gospel is at best misleading. At worst, it’s slanderous of an entire workgroup. We have a union, the Association of Flight Attendants, that has spokespeople available for media. In the future, I suggest you consult with them before publishing random thoughts from a Facebook group.
Flight Attendants are concerned that without proper staffing people sitting in the rear of the aircraft will have to wait too long to receive food and beverage. On a 737-900, it can take over 2 hours for people in the back row to get a measly 6 ounce beverage. Now, the company will be adding additional service, and it will take even longer. We are not concerned about “down time.” In fact, most Flight Attendants prefer to keep moving. It makes the time seem to pass quicker. Sitting around is mentally fatiguing.
In this post-911 world, we are also concerned about maintaining situational awareness of what’s happening in the cabin. It seems many people have forgotten about Richard Reid. We haven’t. (failed shoe bomber on American Airlines) With only 2 Flight Attendants serving a minimum of 138 people in economy, it’s difficult to know what’s going on at all times. Now, on a 737-900 with close to 160 in economy, it will be even more difficult to keep an eye out for any kind of troublemaker, including terrorists.
A writer with any kind of integrity would immediately correct the article in question and immediately publish an apology. Instead, for the benefit of your ego, you will do nothing and your misguided readers will continue to pile on. They will continue calling us lazy, overpaid, and unfriendly. Most importantly, we will lose their respect onboard the aircraft. This will result in another small chink that ultimately leads to air travel becoming less safe.
There are several things I take issue with in this letter, but kudos to David for taking the time and caring enough to write this. I respect that and now leave it to you to weigh the two sides, which are not necessarily in opposition, and emerge better informed about the nuances of FA concerns on United.