How Not To Be A Passenger From Hell

Flight attendants offer pointers on how air travellers can help them do their job with a smile, and ensure a pleasant journey for both.

For the frequent flier, few rapports are more precious than the one shared with the flight attendant. The interactions on a flight and the nature of the experience can dictate one’s mood even after the trip. So, it’s only fair that a frequent flyer knows what the ever-smiling flight attendant is actually thinking about you.

“While we do receive rigorous training, the reality on the job is simply something else,” says Rachana Sethi, a 25-year-old flight attendant who has been flying for two years. All throughout her training, stories were rife about the consummate passengers from hell, replete with uncontrollable drunks, screeching children and demanding divas.

Passengers often forget that there is a limit to the tolerance of flight attendants and not everyone can keep their smiles intact in the face of brash rudeness. Take Steven Slater for instance. Slater, who had reportedly been physically assaulted by a passenger, announced on the public system that he was quitting after two decades in the industry and proceeded to eject himself from the flight.

But Sethi says that one gets used to passenger troubles with time. “When I first joined the service, I used to get very nervous. And to do it all with a smile on your face was nerve wrecking. But now, I’m calmer…it’s come with time.”

The calmness that Sethi and thousands of other flight attendants achieve is no mean feat. Sheryl Pai, a seven-year veteran in the industry, explains, “All the horror stories are not untrue. While we agree that we are at your service, we are not personal butlers. Some people just don’t get that.”

So what can the flyer do to make the experience a bit sweeter? After all, it does take two to tango. Pai suggests, “All we want is a bit of courtesy. If the flyer realises that he or she is only one among 200 others who have to be served, then it puts things in perspective.” A little patience and empathy, and a wide smile on the passenger’s side won’t go unnoticed. Sethi agrees. “The flyer must remember that a little bit of cooperation from his or her side will go a long way in helping us serve them with a genuine smile.”

(Names have been withheld on request.)

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