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April 13, 2021

Flight Attendant puts politeness on standby

Fourteen flights in 13 days. It sounds like the title of a
really bad movie doesn’t it?
Fourteen flights in 13 days.

It sounds like the title of a really bad movie doesn’t it? The kind that would never ever make its way on a commercial jumbo jet.

But actually, that was my husband Chris’ unpleasant reality this month as he crisscrossed his way across the planet while flying the friendly skies.

From San Francisco to Atlanta to D.C. to Germany to Spain to the Netherlands to D.C. to Atlanta to home – punctuated by fun five-hour layovers and delays at airports you’ve likely never heard of or ever will – Chris’ trip is what any seasoned traveler would rubberstamp a big “No.”

If Chris had a hand in planning the itinerary, it simply wouldn’t have seen the light of day, but he has the fortune of having a job that likes to fly him to faraway places. So, he did it willingly and (nearly) happily until he flew one leg of his trip that left a bitter taste in his mouth.

I won’t mention the name of the airline; let’s just say their nickname is American Worst and be done with it. So, Chris boards the plane after being searched and wanded only to discover that someone else is sitting in his seat. This is after he squeezes his carry-on bag into the last available slot in the overhead bin a few paces from where his seat should be.

“Excuse me,” he says to a flight attendant. “Someone is sitting in my seat.”

The attendant gives my husband what I like to call the “what do you want me to about it?” look. I know that look. I’ve been given it before from shop clerks, restaurant hostesses and the odd receptionist.

The flight attendant is suddenly more concerned about where Chris stowed his bag then the fact that he’ll have to stand for the entire flight.

“Sir, you can’t put your bag there. It needs to be closer to where you’re sitting,” she said.

“But I’m not sitting anywhere!” Chris said.

Suddenly, a gate attendant appears to ask Chris for his ticket.

“I don’t have a ticket. I have an e-ticket. Here’s my boarding pass,” Chris says.

“No, you must have a ticket,” the gate person says.

They do a few more rounds of who’s got the ticket until Chris is forced to empty the contents of his bag to prove in fact he does not have a ticket.

Finally, a saintly off-duty flight attendant offers Chris another seat and ample stowage space for his bag.

“Did you get the name of that awful flight attendant?” I ask after hearing the story.

“No, I think it started with an ‘S.’ Sharon? Sheryl? Sherri?” Chris ponders.

“Next time, get a name so you can mention it in your letter,” I say.

I’m a big believer in letters addressed to the head honcho when things go exceptionally well – or exceptionally awry as the case may be. At the very least, the top person will know that not only will you not ever fly XYZ again, but neither will your closest 100 friends and family members, too.

My dad is well practiced at the art of letter writing and has netted some cool stuff as a result, including first class ticket upgrades and extra miles.

If anyone is well deserving of these perks it’s him. My dad has experienced some of the worst flights more than one of which has popped up on the six o’clock news. Do you remember the story about the commercial jet that backed into the food service truck? My dad was on that flight. He was grounded for a couple hours before officials figured out that the collision only caused a few flattened airline entrees.

Then there was the time one of the plane’s engines blew up in midair. That was a scary moment, my dad recalls. Luckily, the other engine got everyone on the ground safely.

That’s the thing with flying – or anything involving human beings for that matter – you never know what you’re going to get. Smooth skies or bumpy ones, or maybe a little of both.

But I’m not about to give up flying. It’s still the best way to get anywhere faraway fast. I’ll just take a few precautionary measures: Book my seat far in advance, show up early, and of course avoid any flight attendant whose name starts with an “S.”

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