Maybe good airline service is possible after all

As Juanita Centanni boarded a recent Cayman Airways flight from Tampa to Grand Cayman, she braced herself for an awful travel experience.

She remembered what happened to her on a domestic flight not so long ago, when she was recovering from rotator cuff surgery. Centanni, a retired government employee, wondered if one of the flight attendants could help with her carry-on bag.

“Ask one of the passengers,” the airline employee snapped.

So when a Cayman Airways attendant met her at the door without any prompting, offering to carry her luggage and stow it in the overhead compartment, she couldn’t believe it.

“I was amazed,” she says.

That sense of disbelief is spreading among air travelers as 2013 winds down. Could it be that airline employees are rediscovering the lost art of customer service? Or perhaps just relearning the good manners their mothers taught them? There’s evidence that the answer is yes.

To understand how far things have fallen, it helps to know your aviation history. Before airline deregulation in 1978, airlines differentiated themselves with their customer service, and domestic airlines set the standard worldwide.

Today, air travelers routinely penalize airlines with some of the lowest customer-service scores. Collectively, airlines received a 69 out of a possible 100 from their passengers on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), about the same as bottom-feeding industries such as subscription TV services and social-media companies.

So when they’re nice, it’s jarring. Kitty Werner expected to have the book thrown in her face when she phoned United Airlines recently to ask if she could change her return flight from Denver to Washington because of a snowstorm — in other words, insisting that she pay a $200 change fee and any fare differential.

Instead, a customer-service agent said he’d be happy to accommodate Werner. He offered to rebook her at no additional charge.

“I certainly appreciated his help,” says Werner, a former airline reservation agent. “I can’t say that about all the flights I’ve been on.”

When Dianne Sakaguchi and her husband flew from Miami to Los Angeles on American Airlines, they found the overhead bins were full even though they’d paid for “Main Cabin Extra” seats. Sakaguchi, who works for an aerospace company in El Segundo, Calif., expected that American would force her to check the carry-on and might even charge her. A flight attendant promised she’d find room for her bags.

“At the time, I didn’t believe it,” she says, “but she came through. She found us unused space in first class for the bags and allowed us to move them. I really appreciate that she made the effort to help.”

Rick Brown was taken aback when he tried to change a flight on United Airlines from New York to Beijing. A phone agent asked Brown, who owns a trading company in New York, why he needed to fly earlier. He told them it was an “emergency change of plans,” but mentioned it as an afterthought, since, in the past, United had always socked him with a $300 change fee and a fare differential.

Instead, the representative offered to waive the change fee.

“I think the world has changed its direction of rotation or something like that,” says Brown. “There’s some strange stuff going on.”

He’s right. The answer might be simple. It’s that time of the year, when even the least charitable companies show a little humanity.

Another possibility: Airlines are fed up with their low customer-service scores and want to improve. They’ve quietly loosened the policy shackles that kept them from doing favors or offering waivers. They’re encouraging employees to be kind.

The truth is somewhere in the middle. The airline industry wouldn’t mind having a better reputation for service, but it has other priorities — like making money.

Take Delta Air Lines, which, like many other legacy carriers, has had an informal “flat tire” rule, which says that if you can’t make it to the airport because of a car accident, the airline will put you on the next available flight at no charge.

But that’s not what happened to Steven Lesser and his brother, who were stuck in a sandstorm as they tried to drive from Tucson to Phoenix. A massive highway pile-up stood between them and the airport; they missed their flight.

“We called Delta and thought that maybe they would accommodate us with the next flight at 6 a.m.,” says Lesser, who works for a college in West Bloomfield, Mich. “The representative only asked if we had insurance. Since we did not, Delta charged us each an additional $200.”

Lesser contacted me for help. Surely, he suggested, there must be a misunderstanding. The accident on Interstate 10 was well documented. I suggested he appeal the fee to one of Delta’s executives, and I also asked the airline about its flat tire rule and shared his case with the company. Delta refunded Lesser’s fee.

Maybe airlines really want to give you good service. Sometimes, they just need a nudge.

Is good airline service possible?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • VoR61

    I choose to believe that most want to provide good service, and have been the recipient of such.

    More importantly, I believe our attitude engenders that service. “Would you be kind enough to …?”, “Thank you so much”, and other statements like it, coupled with a calm demeanor go a long way to pulling that level of service out of every provider.

    Even when they may not deserve it or we have been “wronged”, service begins with us …

  • Alan Gore

    Bad poll question today! Of course good service is ‘possible’; it just happens less often than we would like.

  • Ken Rahr

    The “Good Service” cited here, is nothing more than a statistical anomaly. Bad service is unfortunately the industry norm.

  • MarkieA

    I’ve never really understood the connection between the quality of customer service and price of the product. I mean, do you really believe that “cheap” airlines purposely hire nasty employees? No, of course not. And I don’t go along with the premise that employees’ attitude are “adjustable” depending upon their salary. A nice person is generally always a nice person. A not-so-nice person, likewise, can’t be made to be nice just by paying them more. The problem, I believe, is that the percentage of nasty people in society in general has been on the increase for awhile now. This is the pool that employers have to draw from. I just find it hard to fathom that employees take on the attitude of, “I’d be nicer to these jerks if my boss paid me more.”.

  • Naoma Foreman

    Being polite is the best solution. You, the customer — being polite, that is.

  • NakinaAce

    I am one of the first one’s to rail about the airlines poor service. I also notice that Spirit Airlines gets a lot of bad press however in all my dealings with them I have found them to be service oriented and the flights a better experience than most. Yes, you have to understand that you pay for everything but flying between Fort Lauderdale and Myrtle Beach is generally a nice experience for me. I don’t carry any luggage except the prescribed carry on and I pay for ‘Big Front Seat’ but in terms of value for money they are miles ahead of the legacy carriers. Of course it helps that I am only flying point to point and going through the hell on earth that are the hub facilities these days.

  • John Baker

    I was shocked by UA on a recent flight. There was a ugly snow storm that was delaying flights into ORD. Our flight was initially delayed for “weather” but UA later changed it to “mechanical” which meant they bought us dinner and rebooked us on a competitor since we’d missed our connection. I was floored that they actually changed the delay reason since no one would question it.

  • James M Barnes

    Chris…..the Delta example is not the way the “Flat-Tire Rule” works….it’s an airport policy….If you call reservations they just assume you are another passenger trying to change their flight and expect to have the change fee waived. They needed to show up at the airport with their luggage etc. Obviously the theory being that the customer made a good-faith effort to arrive in time for their flight. Also…the well-documented accident on I-10 might not mean anything to a
    call-center employee in another part of the the country.

  • Christopher Elliott

    I don’t get it, either. I’ve called this the “you-get-what-you-pay-for” attitude — the assumption that if your airline ticket is discounted, you’re not entitled to any kind of customer service. That’s a false assumption. In other industries (retail, fast food) you can still get low prices and excellent service. Why not airlines?

  • Christopher Elliott

    I appreciate that you know the rules so well. But for that passenger, the flat tire rule should have been invocable, at least from my perspective as a consumer advocate. I felt it was proper to ask Delta to review the case, and it did. I’m grateful for the outcome.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Passengers do question those kind of shenanigans, but not as often as they should. Remember, the DOT is always interested in hearing your stories about “iffy” delay reasons. Don’t be shy about filing a complaint.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I don’t have much sympathy for the woman who was told by a domestic FA to stow her own bag. FAs generally aren’t covered under worker’s comp for doing that, so if an FA injured him/herself, it would be on them.

    I’m of the mind if you can’t manage basic travel tasks yourself, fly with a companion. Don’t expect the airlines to take care of you–they won’t.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Not in EWR. You have to be an ass to get anything from anyone EWR. Must be the Jersey ‘tude.

    But Hell’s Outhouse of airport? CDG. Rude employees, rude citizens, bad smells…

    (And to top Newark on those three areas, that’s sayin’ something!)

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Agree with you on that, as I thought the original example cited wasn’t a good one. If someone cannot lift their own carry-on bag, for whatever reason, then they need to check it. My mother was traveling a few years ago, and said she’d just bat her eyes and pull the little old lady routine to shame someone into helping her with her carry-on, just because she didn’t want to pay the baggage fee. I paid it for her out of consideration of her fellow passengers and the flight attendants.

    If you can’t lift or carry your own carry-on baggage, it is no longer a “carry on”. Check it.

  • lost_in_travel

    Why file a complaint about a change that means the airline gives you MORE than they were obligated to ?

  • TonyA_says

    What flat tire rule? Even Southwest got rid of that.

    No Show Policy – If you are not planning to travel on
    any portion of this itinerary, please cancel your reservation at least
    10 minutes prior to scheduled departure of the flight. For tickets
    purchased on or after May 10, 2013, for travel beginning September 13,
    2013, Customers who fail to cancel or change a Wanna Get Away or DING!
    fare segment at least 10 minutes prior to travel and who do not board
    the flight, will be considered a no show, and all remaining funds on
    this reservation will be forfeited, including Business Select and
    Anytime funds. Reservations booked using Rewards points, Companion
    passes, and Reward seats are not included in this policy.

    Ever since I nearly missed my flight to Paris about 5 years ago because a school bus caught on fire between the Whitestone bridge and the end of Hutchinson Parkway (and got stuck there for more than an hour); I leave my house about 5 hours before the flight. I just plan on a 2 hour drive and still be in about 3 hours before departure. It also helps with my blood pressure. I wonder why people just can’t leave earlier to get to the airport? Just how much more important are their other activities compared to missing a flight?

  • Justin


    I actually have a story of airline generosity (Delta) to pass along. Last Friday, I was up in Cleveland scheduled to have yet another surgery on Monday. My grandmother had been ill for a while and I had a bad feeling. I decided before surgery to drive up to Detroit, leaving my mother behind at the hotel as she was tired (required to have someone with you after surgery). While I stayed in Detroit for one day, my grandmother suddenly passed away the morning I was leaving.

    I immediately hopped online and found a puddle jumper for my mother on Delta. Tried to call customer service, but the lines were busy. With only 1.5 hours before the flight, my mother grabbed a taxi and raced to the Airport.

    Delta let my mother bring several carry-on bags onboard at no charge. She checked one bag (paid). After arriving safely, I called Delta Customer Service and explained the situation about inability to acquire a bereavement fare due to time constraints.

    I’d like to say Thank You Delta for the $25.00 credit back (10%) + Accommodating my mother. There is hope out there every once in a while.

  • Justin

    Helping people in life goes a lot further than being obstinate. Not everyone is cash flush and can afford high check baggage fees for carry-on items. I’ll gladly help a fellow passenger, the same as I don’t mind holding the door for people.

    It’s called MANNERS.

  • Justin

    Sometimes life happens to the best of us. We can try and plan ahead, but the stars occasionally align where the best plans fall apart.

  • cowboyinbrla

    I think it’s especially false since for years, when a combination of factors allowed Southwest to routinely have cheaper fares and “set the bar” for pricing, its service, limited as it was, was superb. It mostly still is, even as their prices have had to rise on some routes. I can’t remember the last time I encountered a surly Southwest employee.

    I think it ties back to their culture. The company once said that they believed if they took care of the employees, the employees would take care of the customers, and the customers would take care of the profits. I think that’s good advice for any business.

  • Michael__K

    People with disabilities shouldn’t have to pay extra to fly because of their physical limitations — that sounds like unlawful discrimination to me.

    You probably have to register yourself in advance as a disabled passenger, but I believe you can request boarding assistance and that this includes stowing a normal size carry on bag.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Yes, I’ll help people. I’m just stating that people shouldn’t EXPECT the airlines to do so.

    And, don’t be like the witch I witnessed this week in MCO (ugh) DEMANDING assistance with her five kids and their luggage from anyone and everyone. Try “please” and “thank you.”

  • Raven_Altosk

    If that’s the case, I have a bad case of tennis elbow. Register me as disabled and let me check all my luggage for free for life…

    Yeah? See how bad this would get? Just look at the problems Di$ney had with their “guest assistance card” that everyone and their dog managed to “qualify” for…

  • bbgunplinkplink

    Possible, but not probable.

  • Michael__K

    Who said anything about checking luggage for free?

  • Michael__K

    Most airlines have similar policies. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a flat tire rule exception (as Chris previously reported:)

  • Travelnut

    Posted this previously, but it’s on point here too. United waived my $200 change fee on Monday when I had a previously scheduled flight SAT-MIA on the 25th that I needed to change to SAT-BWI on the 23rd, when my nephew scheduled my sister’s memorial service on the 25th. This on a day when the weather was causing havoc at the airports and I was on hold for an hour before I got through. My usual dealings with UA tend to end with snarling rants on Facebook. Pleasant surprise.

  • TonyA_says

    PLEASE name one airline that has a written flat-tire exception to NOSHOW. Otherwise I find your comment the MOST airlines have similar policies quite MISLEADING.

  • Rick Cricow

    I was recovering from back surgery and had to fly to a deposition. I had a light (20 lb) carryon, and this was in the days when I was able to get upgrades for every flight.

    I had 2 flight attendants tell me they couldn’t help because they had 1. a bad back, and 2. a bad shoulder. And I’m thinking, how can they help evacuate us in an emergency?

  • Justin

    Big difference between a mean, spiteful, person and someone needing a genuine hand. I think 9 out of 10 times, the latter proves true. So be courteous and help a fellow passenger.

    Enough said here.

  • Michael__K

    See Chris’ reporting (link already provided).

  • Frank Windows

    The help-with-the-bag thing isn’t down to bad customer service, it’s bad airline management. Most flight attendants do not get paid until the aircraft door closes (hence the rush to get everyone on board and in their seats). Boarding time is “off the clock,” so if they hurt themselves hoisting a bag into the overhead bin, it can make a worker’s comp claim problematic — the WC/airline staff can argue that the FA was not on the job, but rather hoisting bags on their own time. Plus, you know how tough it is to get one of those 25-pounders up into the luggage bin… imagine doing it five, ten, fifteen times a day, for twenty-five years. I have yet to see a lifting belt as part of a flight attendant’s uniform.

  • Justin

    There’s nothing wrong with an organization clamping down on abuse. I even agree penalties are in place for people who lie.

    I.E…. you call up an airline, cry bereavement, and the information proves untrue upon verification, then a 50 dollar “customer service charge” is tacked onto your credit card.

    Lie about a disability to qualify for seating, ticket is revoked.

    What I don’t like is people who play unsympathetic and see the worst in life.

  • bodega3

    This isn’t unusual during situations due to these kind of weather conditions.

  • Justin

    I doubt your claim to be true. Flight attendants are employees and clock in the same as all professions. Plane idle, boarding, taking off, or landing still counts towards hours worked. Who sold you this story?

  • bodega3

    I am with Tony on this. Show us the rule and I am sure you will find it undocumented.

  • bodega3

    Many flight attendants have said the same thing here on Chris’ site.

  • Justin

    How are the employees rude at Charles De Gaulle? No one was rude to me what so ever….. Rude? Try Italy… Friendly isn’t in their vocabulary. At least in Rome.

  • Justin

    I call bogus. You cant require an employee to work off the clock. Flight attendants are direct employees of an airline. The same you clock into work holds true for a flight attendant.

    I ask for proof on this one… I’m 100% skeptical.

  • bodega3

    Google it. You will find this out there…I just did.

  • Justin

    Stress, regulatory changes, corporate policies, etc. Airline employees are burdened with more headaches Post 9/11.

    Before all the charade and security B.S. of the TSA, passengers arrived within 45 minutes to an hour of their flight. Once through the metal detectors, passengers sipped their drink, grabbed a bite, and relaxed.

    Today – Passengers are herded into long security checkpoints like cattle, stripped of their shoes, forced to empty luggage, toss belongings, and then walked through X-ray machines (or a pat down). Once into the airport, you can BUY very expensive food, while you wait a few hours to take off.

    Flying has gone from a low stress event to one where people are agitated from the get go.

  • jim6555

    I’ve found the same attitude as you experience at EWR to be present at the Delta terminal at JFK. Must be a New York metro area thing.

  • Justin

    I googled and I’m skeptical. First return is a class action lawsuit against Delta on failure to pay proper wages for overtime, hours worked, etc. I’d like Tonya or an airline employee to weigh in here.

  • JenniferFinger

    I think they do want to offer good service, but many of their employees are under pressure of various kinds from above and outside not to deliver it because they’ve been told other things are more important, or they don’t know how to deliver it.

  • bodega3

    Tony is an agent like I am, not an airline employee.

  • bodega3

    They verify the information BEFORE they allow the ticket to be issued.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Justin, it’s also called “manners” when you plan at the outset to not inconvenience others. My mother had deliberately planned to inconvenience others. She had enough money to buy a ticket to join a tour group. She had enough money to pay the baggage fees; she simply didn’t want to shell out $35.

    Too many people think like my mother does, that everyone else in the world owes her consideration. I’ll happily help someone who needs help; I won’t happily help anyone who demands it.

  • Justin

    Not really. My grandma just passed away last week. Read above (Thanks Delta for the Help). Bought a ticket last minute, and retroactively appealed for a bereavement discount.

    Agent didn’t require I give information, but I volunteered. I figured it’d help bolster my case. Lo and behold, the credit was authorized. Delta didn’t have to do it, but I am thankful. Even if only $25 (10%) of the one way fare.

  • Justin

    I like to think the opposite. Majority choose to ask for help only if required. So what if I end up helping “your mom”. I’ve done my good deed and don’t know the difference. Cheapskate, feigning elderly, what have you.

    for the 10% of jerks in the world, 90% are appreciative.

  • bodega3

    You didn’t get a bereavement fare, you got something that was nice of the carrier to do. Last week, trying to reach the carriers was next to impossible and honestly, I have had great customer service from DL lately for clients. For a bereavement fare ticket to be issued, there are certain bits of information you do have to provide. I have been placed on hold while the airline reservationist at the agency desk calls to verify. If you got a one way fare at the last minute of $250, that was a good deal.

  • Justin

    Puddle jumper from Cleveland to Detroit booked for my mother on Delta
    1.5 – 2 hours before takeoff. 20 Minute flight – Cost $260 bucks. Long story short, I was scheduled for surgery, went to go visit grandma who was ill, and she passed away during my one day stay. Mother stayed behind in Cleveland as was tired from 4 hr drive night before. Required a flight to get here Pronto.

    Whatever Delta did to Credit back $25, give my mom extra carry-ons (3), and charge for one bag… I’m thankful. Nice people still in the world.

  • John Baker

    My neighbor is a pilot. They get paid door close to door open and nothing while boarding. It’s one of the reasons that they used to close the door and make us all sitcom hours in the middle of the airfield. They were on the clock that way

  • VoR61

    I spent some searching (Google) and discovered that FAs are paid $1.50/hour from airport check-in to wheels up.

    But the key here for the baggage issue is injury. I found a link that indicates they would get worker’s compensation for associated injuries:

  • bodega3

    That link was for layover issues. I saw that $1.50 an hours on the internet, too. Wow, be still my heart :-(

  • VoR61

    If you read the link more closely, it specifies “Generally, workers who are traveling on behalf of their employers are regarded as acting within the course of employment throughout the entire period of travel”.

    The entirety of the posting there is what caught my attention. That injuries are generally covered even when “they’re not being paid”.

    But even if they’re only paid $1.50 per hour, they would still qualify for medical coverage if injured while hosting a bag to the overhead bin.

  • bodega3

    Well, if the FA’s who have participated here post, they will fill you in on their carrier’s policies. I only know what they have stated and I don’t work for the airlines, just sell their tickets.

  • Helio

    A friend of mine who is pilot told me the has a salary, PLUS an additional for flying hours, and this additional starts to count after the door is closed.
    Maybe this is the reason they want to close the door as soon as possible.

  • Raven_Altosk

    And I don’t like dudes who video kids on planes and put it on youtube.

    So we’re even, bro.

  • Justin

    Guess you need to steer clear of Social Media. Plenty of videos featuring irresponsible parents who think their precious darling is the highlight of the trip. I guess they’re proven wrong….
    So hey…. We disagree.

  • Raven_Altosk

    While we’re talking about lousy customer service, let me tell you about shuttle drivers at EWR. United runs a shuttle between concourses. I was on it, there was a couple that had a late-arriving flight and a tight connection. They asked the driver to go (the shuttle was mostly full and no one else was coming)

    Driver said she HAD to wait for someone.
    Fifteen minutes go by, these people are freaking out and rightly so.

    Turns out the driver was waiting on a fellow employee to bring her a McDonald’s biscuit.

    Couple missed their plane.
    I hope UA compensated them big time. There’s no excuse for behavior like this.

  • Carchar

    I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I fly from EWR a lot for a leisure traveler, once per month, and I have been treated quite well. Also, the 2x I have been to CDG.

  • Carchar

    I believe Chris was saying that if you suspect misinformation that results in your getting less, you should not be shy in filing a complaint.

  • Carchar

    I find that non-U.S. airline flight attendants are willing to help passengers put bags in the overhead. I don’t need any help, but I am often approached by FA;s who ask whether I do need it. I am short, but I guess I look frailer than I am.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    They probably got that bad back from helping folks stow their carry-on bags.
    In an emergency the flight attendants will direct people how to exit the plane – not toss 200 pound guys down the emergency slide.
    I would never ask/expect a flight attendant to stow my stuff.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    If a flight attendant gets hurt hoisting a bag and requires medical attention, your plane is not taking off because they are down one crew member.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Workman’s compensation is no walk in the park. You never receive the same amount of money as when you are working.
    And God forbid, some worker’s comp doctor decides that your injury is going to prevent you from doing your job.

  • MarkKelling

    I have known several flight attendants over the years who worked for various airlines (CO, UA, F9, WN) well enough to know how they got pad. All of them were paid from door close to door open and nothing at other times. While I believe it makes little sense, it is the way things are.

  • MarkKelling

    On several flights within Europe, I have had flight attendants yank my carry on out of my hand and slam it into the bin and tell me to “Sit!” I think it is just US based airlines where the flight attendants refuse to help with the luggage.

  • bodega3

    If they are not on the clock in the US until the doors closed and get hurt assisting you, you certainly can understand why. Now why this is done this way is beyond me and seems very wrong!

  • ChrisFromSFO

    Justin I had a hideous experience at CDG a few years ago where they randomly closed and opened the passport control lines while I was standing online. The French customs agents literally screamed at us the whole time.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I think its the other way around. When you pay a higher salary, you have a better pool of applicants to choose from and accordingly, you can hire people with better skills, including customer service skills.. Consider fast food restaurants. IN-N-OUT pays its workers better than other fast food joints. The result is that the worker’s there are of a significantly higher caliber than at the McDonald’s next door and it shows in every way possible.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It’s not the price that you pay for any particular product. It’s the general price point of the business establishment that determines the corporate culture. Consider your high end establishments: Needless Markup, Whole Paycheck, Four Seasons, etc.

    Those business establishments are highly service oriented because in general you pay for that level of service, which includes the attitude of the workers, even if they have to fake it. When was the last time you saw a surly worker at Whole Foods. By contrast, Walmart, Food Lion, and Motel 6 give dirt cheap prices and one of the causalities seems to be across-the-board good, friendly service. Its more a function of the worker’s personality than corporate culture.

    That doesn’t mean that you can’t get good service at cheaper
    establishments, but you always expect good, friendly service when paying
    a premium.

    I remember flying into town for my buddy’s wedding in 2000. I stayed at a cheap hotel. The sole front desk clerk was taking a smoke break and everyone had to wait while she finished her smoke. She gave me grief for checking in early and refused my request for extra pillows. I saved $10 by staying there. For 10 lousy bucks more I would have gotten an infinitely nicer experience at the Holiday Inn next door

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    One flirted with me. She was cute.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Who’d you piss off to get a downvote?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Just how much more important are their other activities compared to missing a flight?

    It can be critical. I have court appearances, others have work, children, etc. On my first European trip, I needed to get new glasses (20/1000 prescription) and I barely made it to the airport in time.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    On AA…

    The following passengers may standby at no charge based on availability:

    Customers who purchase unrestricted Economy Class fares (Y class of service)

    Customers who purchase Business or First Class tickets

    American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum®, AAdvantage Platinum® or AAdvantage Gold® members

    oneworld® Alliance Emerald, Sapphire or Ruby members

    AAirpass® members

    First and Business Class MileSAAver® Awards

    First, Business and Economy Class AAnytime® Awards

    Customers who purchase a Choice Plus fare

    Domestically, this has the practical effect of a flat tire rule. In fact, back when I was an Exec Plat, for short hops, I would often book the cheapest ticket for the day and fly standby for the time I actually wanted.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree. Its a simple enough request. There are any number of reasons why someone can’t lift a carry-on. My buddy had polio and one arm is tiny. If he lifted a roller board on handed, he’d likely whack someone in the head. I have every sympathy.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Sorry about your grandma

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    In law school I held a door open for a female classmate. She cursed me out as a sexist pig.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It’d be my honor to help your mom put her bag in the overhead bin. Most of my friends think the same.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


    If it wasn’t the airlines, you’d be 110% right. No question about it. But as far as I can tell, legally airlines reside in the twilight zone. Normal rules just don’t seem to apply to them. The onerous contracts, rules, and practices, barely exist outside of the travel world.

  • Justin

    Guess it depends on who works that day and luck of the draw. People told me the Italians were nice and French rude. Italians were RUDE to me, and every French I encountered helpful for the most part.

  • Justin

    Thank You for the condolences Carver.

  • TonyA_says

    I grew up with a Yes Sir, Yes Maam environment. Took my staff out to lunch at TGIF and the waiter asked me a question and I answered Yes Sir. He got mad at me. I got shocked at his attitude. I almost told my whole staff to stand up and leave and dine somewhere else. After all, I’m paying for the meal.

  • Justin

    Some people can’t be made happy….

    I actually had some teenager hold the door for me once who looked straight “thug”. Pants hanging, could have been gang member (part of town), and looked the part. Out of the blue, kid politely held door and was courteous.

    Can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

  • Justin

    Never seen a person offended by politeness. There’s a new one for the day.

  • TonyA_says

    I did work for an airline in the 80s though. But if you read the union contracts of most FAs, you will see their clock runs when the doors close or in scheduled block times.
    So, indeed, they are not paid to lift your heavy baggage for you.
    Same logic applies for putting your bagagge on the scale or flushing the toilet after you use it.
    You are expected to be able to do the basic stuff unless you are handicapped.

  • TonyA_says

    Is that an allowance?
    They get all sort of allowances like staying overnight away from domicile, etc.

  • TonyA_says

    I remember in the USSR, a big lady yanked my heavy luggage and placed it on the scale while she was seated beside it! Those commies were strong :-)

  • TonyA_says

    Should have been part of obamacare :-)

  • TonyA_says

    Welcome to New York :-)

  • bodega3

    Yep, that was a fine line you crossed back in the day :-) Men accept the door being held open now, but that got you a puzzled look, if as a woman you held it for them. Let’s not even mention holding a car door open for a woman. You might get your fingers smashed :-)

  • bodega3

    No you can’t. 3 years ago during the holiday season, I needed a wheelchair to get around. It was an eye opener on who was courteous and helpful. The least were senior citizens. The most were younger people, not dressed in ways that would make you think they would even give you the time a day. One young man saw us moving away from a table at a small diner. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him get out of his chair, walk across the room to the door and he waited for us to reach the door, where he opened it up for us as we approached. Saying thank you just didn’t seem enough but he smiled and said ‘no problem’ and I knew he meant it!

  • Carchar

    Carver, does it really matter? :D

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    LOL, not really. Trolls will be trolls

  • gracekelley

    Non us flight Attendants are “on the clock” when they report for duty us fa are not. If they are hurt during boarding they have to fight, if they even get it which is unlikely, for it to be covered under workmmans compensation. Injuries during boarding can result in medical bills and lost wages. There’s 1 fa for every 50 passengers on domestic flights even if they assisted a small% of passenger’s on each flight say they work up to 6 flights in a day, that’s a lot of lifting, and a lot of potential for injury. If you encounter one that won’t stow bags they’ve most likely been down the injury and no work comp street, it’s not ideal and can be financially devastating, most will at least assist though. Then to add to insult the airlines could go as far as count your time out against you not all are union workers. Final cherry on top if they drop a bag and or break a passenger’s belongings guess who’s held personally accountable and some have had to actually pay for highly valuable items. I can see why some refuse. The airlines treat crew members the same or actually probably worse than a passenger’s worst customer service story. It’s deplorable and I have no idea how they get away with this it’s an atrocious way to treat employees, lowering morale and therefore diservicing their paying passenger’s, specifically, one’s that actually aren’t able to stow the smallest of carry on items.

  • gracekelley

    Really, they refused to pay for my hand surgery when I had a passenger smash 6 bones in my hand assisting them during boarding, and I was union. I also was out for 6 weeks unpaid and it sucked big time. I don’t blame them if they refuse. I have also hurt my shoulder and they did cover that it was far less expensive, but it’s a coin toss. How it’s legal? Well, the airline’s are in bed with the government, I’m not sure. Either way I’ve been injured several times boarding and only once after a lengthy battle did work comp cover it. Your wrong I have experienced it with a major carrier they are all the same non union is even worse and can fire them for missing work. It’s not a “story” it’s a fact.

  • gracekelley

    Your correct, hardly anyone realize this, but it’s true. I got a hand injury assisting a passenger stow a bag and after medical bills and lost time at work it cost me $7500 and I made 18k that first year. BRUTAL.
    my friend accidentally broke an Ipad and the passenger complained demanding it be replaced guess who had to pay or was threatened dismissal ?
    The general lack of knowledge of a flight Attendants job and what it entails is a major role in people feeling that the service is less than desirable in my opinion, hence the above statement.

  • gracekelley

    Whoever wrote this garbage failed to meet or interview a flight attendant and a airline doctor, those wankers.

  • gracekelley

    You want proof I’ll email you a letter of denial from the insurance company of the airline and my medical bills etc. I lost that battle. Airlines have big lawyers and crap work rules. Your 100% WRONG.

  • gracekelley

    Bingo. They don’t have to cover injuries that occur during boarding. How do I know it happened to me.

  • gracekelley

    Yes if you let them know when booking arrangements are made and ground crew stows the bag. They’re 100% covered under injury for baggage stewardesses are NOT. Don’t expect US airline stews to stow bags most are happy to assist but some will just say no, and honestly after my personal experiences and struggles as one, I can’t blame them. Don’t have to be rude about it, but I understand their reason. I won’t be a stewardess in about a week THANK GOD!

  • gracekelley

    I think it’s the type of customers they deal with like those $40 VEGAS fare passenger’s and they get to a point they just shut down emotionally. A human being can only take so much abuse before they just shut down. However, there’s never an excuse to be rude for absolutely no reason especially to a paying customer.

  • gracekelley

    You can take some food through security check for more info. Common misconception no food can go that’s not correct. If you have problems request a supervisor and have pulled up on your smart phone or tablet to reference immediately when speaking to a supervisor.

  • bayareascott

    It’s true. You are wrong, but continue to believe what you like.

  • gracekelley

    If everyone that tweeted, facebooked, emailed or yelled at front line employees stop and instead implore to Washington write letters to representatives, the department of transportation, and the faa maybe MAYBE things could change but no one seems to know where to go other than twitter or facebook. Go read an airlines page and complaining after complaining is written with ending statements like help me or where do I turn? As if the thought never occurs to them there are actually government agencies that oversee airlines if so many people complain to airlines about tsa how would they ever know what agency to complain to about the airline? I am shocked by the general lack of knowledge of a huge number of traveler’s that have no idea where to go to log complaints or who to turn to and just end up yelling at the lowest employee on the pole and end up getting nothing done but being frustrated and stranded.

  • DC1976

    This is an old story of great customer service from 2008, but I thought I’d share it. I was returning from business in Puerto Rico and our American Airlines flight out of San Juan to Miami was delayed a couple of hours due to maintenance issues. That meant most of us who had connections were going to miss them. Not long after we were finally in the air, one of the flight attendants came on and told us what our new connecting flights were…based on our original connections, every one of us had been re-booked on new connecting flights while we were still in the air to Miami. Amazing!

  • gracekelley

    Valet gate check is free for my airline for carry-ons. We are 100% not completely covered under “baggage” injuries. If someone can’t lift a carry-on if they let someone know before they get on the plane the airline will have a ground crew member that IS covered stow their bags, here in the good old usa. We are talking about airlines. They are more likely to cover injuries that occur on layovers or in terminals than during boarding for pilots or flight Attendants. You’ve probably never seen a pilot come stow a bag either and the ones that help rampers unload cargo is playing Russian roulette with workmans comp.

  • j-wo

    Coming into this discussion late, but on a United flight from Houston to Edmonton, I experienced the results of food poisoning. The flight was hell as I spent most of it in the lavatory throwing up. However, when the plane landed (I was travelling solo), the United crew helped me with my carry-on bag, got a wheelchair, and two United crew got my luggage, wheeled me through security, and delivered me up to my ride — they even got me some water and made sure I had enough barf bags just in case. I was so sick I didn’t get any names, but bless all those United employees, as I thought I was going to die.

  • Sandra

    I can tell the difference between a Continental flight crew and a United flight crew. I must say that Continental is superior in attitude and service. United has a long way to go, but maybe their new parent company will fix a most of the “wrongs” that seem to have become the norm for their demoralized work-force.

    All that said, I wish they’d stop losing my baggage. It’s so inconvenient.