Flight attendants, your job comes with a tremendous benefit. Please don’t abuse it.
In the airline industry, employees “take care of their own.” While that is hardly unique to airlines, the brotherhood and sisterhood inherent in wearing the same uniform is something deeply ingrained into airline culture. And it should be. But sometimes there are lines that are crossed; lines that should never be crossed.
One of the great benefits of working for an airline is non-revenue, space available (NRSA) travel. If you work for an airline, you can jump on a flight at a moment’s notice to anywhere in the world. For many airline employees, that perk extends to dozens of other airlines. If a seat is available, it is yours.
But there is a code of conduct that accompanies such a benefit. Namely, you take the seat that is given to you. You don’t EVER ask a “paying” passenger to switch seats, unless it is for an equal or better seat. Even that request should be avoided when possible. No pressure should ever be placed on a passenger to move if s/he doesn’t want to.
A Sad Story On United
Jo Vangrovsky shared a story on Flyertalk that took place on his United flight from Hong Kong to Newark, a flight of over 13 hours. He tells a story I have sadly witnessed on other occasions and even once faced myself.
I was flying from HKG to EWR on a 777 on UA. I have pre-selected the emergency exit aisle E+ seat((the three on the right) when I bought my ticket 6 months ago. It was free because I have Platinum status on UA. I’m somewhat tall at 6’4″ so I never book a flight unless I see that an exit row seat is open.
Anyway….. I boarded the flight and sat in the correct seat. the flight was 100% full in all three classes.(business, premium plus, economy) About 10 minutes before the door was closing, a flight attendant came up to me and asked me nicely to move to a middle seat in the back. The flight attendant said the “older” gentleman needed to sit there because he “wasn’t feeling okay sitting in the back”…
“older” as in late 50s…. I just turned 50 myself.
Being dumb and a somewhat nice guy, I complied. It was awful being stuck in the middle of the 4-seat in he very back of the 777. Just imagine a 6’4″ man who had his knees up against the seatback in front for 13.5 hours.
During the flight, when I walked past my original exit aisle seat, I noticed that the flight attendants were always chit-chatting with the “older” guy. Half way into the flight, I finally overheard them talking and it was clear that the guy was an off-duty UA employee coming home after vacation in Hong Kong. He only wanted to sit there in order to catch up with the crew. Sounded like he was an airport supervisor or something.
Am I wrong for thinking that I was basically robbed? Do I have any recourse if I complain to UA?
Jo, you are not wrong for thinking you were basically robbed. You do have recourse if you complain to United. In fact, if the flight attendant can be identified, disciplinary action may be taken, including the termination of pass privileges for that employee and/or the one who “stole” your seat.
Yes, you should have politely declined. You’re a clearly a nice guy, though, and I don’t blame you for not risking the ire of a flight attendant on such a long flight.
But this was not right.
A Plea to Flight Attendants
To any flight attendant (or airline employee) who might be reading this, please do not ever engage in this behavior. When you do, you reflect poorly on your airline and poorly as an employee. Is is absolutely unacceptable behavior (frankly for revenue passengers as well). Maybe it is just because I fly United most often, but I’ve witnessed situations like this (where a non-rev asks a passenger to move an inferior seat) at least five times over the years. It should never happen.
Something not quite as draconian happened to me once on a Thanksgiving Day United flight from Washington Dulles to Los Angeles. It was a 767-300 and a non-rev family was upgraded to business class. I had pre-selected a window seat and the non-rev flight attendant and her daughter were seated in the seat next to me and the seat across the aisle.
The off-duty flight attendant asked me to move across the aisle so she could sit next to her daughter. She smiled and was kind, so I complied…but I wasn’t happy. As I travel blogger, I always choose window seats when available in order to get clear shots of my meal(s) with natural light. That did not occur here. A blurry, dark picture of my breakfast is evidence…
Certainly I could have said no, but how do you say no to smiling flight attendant traveling with a little girl?
I travel so often and I know so many flight attendants on a personal basis. Most of you are the simply wonderful. But to those of you (who probably don’t read blogs like mine) who feel entitled to hassle passengers to help out your non-rev buddies, shame on you. You are ruining things for everyone…