Why Are Some Airline Employees So Damn Hostile?

Filed Under: Travel

US airlines aren’t exactly known for their service or passenger experience. Heck, Emirates came out with an ad last week which pokes fun at exactly this:

I get why service is often indifferent on US airlines. I really do. Historically airlines haven’t shown much respect towards their employees, passenger behavior seems to get progressively worse, and with seniority being the main metric which matters, employees don’t have much of an incentive to go the extra mile.

That being said, what I can’t rationalize is why there seem to be so many airline employees who are downright hostile. Employees who seem to go out of their way to make customers feel unwelcome, who put effort into being rude.

I can’t think of any other businesses — hotels, restaurants, retail, etc. — where you see employees downright hostile in the same manner it happens in the airline industry. And unfortunately it mostly happens under the guise of “security.”

Case in point, I was flying from Los Angeles to New York in American’s A321 first class.


I arrived at the gate a few minutes after boarding started, and the guy in front of me was being pulled over by the gate agent, apparently because he had three carry-ons. Here’s what I heard:

Gate agent: “Sir, you have too many bags, you need to check one.”

Fair enough. The rules are the rules, and he did have too many carry-ons. But it’s about how you handle it. As it turns out, his friend was traveling with him, though he was separated in the boarding queue by a couple of people.

Here’s the conversation which followed:

Passenger’s friend: “John, I can take that bag for you.”
Passenger: “He will take it for me.”
Gate agent: “You can’t do that, it’s a security risk.”
Passenger: “He’s my friend, we’re traveling together.”
Gate agent: “Yeah? If he’s your friend then what’s his name?”
Passenger: “It’s [name].”
Gate agent: “You still can’t do that, it’s a security issue. You can’t do that unless you were boarding at the same time.”
Passenger: “We are two people apart in the line, we are traveling together.”
Gate agent: “I’m just trying to do my job.”

What’s not conveyed in the above is the pissy tone with which she communicated with the guy, while he was being friendly.

This is just one small instance, but it’s an overall theme I notice in the airline industry more than any other industry. Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic, passionate employees in the airline industry. But there are also employees who go out of their way to disrespect passengers. And I just don’t get it. Because being bitchy and trying to justify being wrong takes energy.

I also feel I should point out that 15 seconds later I was greeted at the door of the plane by one of the friendliest pursers I’ve ever interacted with. He was pleasant, friendly, and clearly wanted to make everyone smile, even at 5:30AM. He wanted to be there, even before dawn on a Sunday morning. Quite a contrast from the draconian gate agent…

Bottom line

Dear hostile employees in the airline industry: could you please make an effort to be lazy rather than hostile?

In the above case, the gate agent was in the right by telling the passenger he had too many carry-ons. But when his friend offered to take one of them, she should have just let it go. And even if she did want to ask the follow up question to make sure they were actually friends (which seems ridiculous to me, but…), she should have stopped there. Instead she made up a further rule for why the guy couldn’t take one of the bags on the plane his friend, because she just couldn’t bear the thought of being wrong.

  1. This horrible behavior by airlines staff Will end the Day when they get Jail sentences for overstepping their powers in the way as described above. 7 days in jail for the above would appropriate.
    And before allow the hippicrites cries out of me. Remember USA is the land where people get jailed for life for stealing a slice of pizza or having debt to the court. Hence 7 days for above misuse of power is appropriate.

  2. Transfer once at CDG without being on AF first class and you will really encounter gate personnel hostility. The US is improving al lot

  3. In my experience airlines only do what is the bare statutory minimum in the guise of customer service. Few go above and beyond

  4. First, lol at Hasse. How about people just get fired for doing a poor job? That would be a fair start.

  5. As you stated airline employees even those who are non-Union/unorganized are largely tied to their DOH/seniority rather than being evaluated on their merit/performance. I think the hostility comes from behavior of passengers and an overall stressful environment. Increasingly carriers are holding agents and station management responsibile for departure delays, could be why they are short and curt. Decades of concessions, outsourcing, mismanagement, have also harmed the morale even of the most dedicated and ethusiastic employees. I assume Lucky and many here are aware of that but likely don’t fully appreciate the toll it has taken on many employees and their families.

  6. It’s human nature, Lucky. There is a certain kind of person who will always look for ways to be unkind if they know the other person has no recourse. At the airport, the passenger has no recourse and can’t really argue. So the 5% or whatever of airport/airline employees who enjoy getting away with being hateful can indulge themselves. It’s hard for us to understand. What do they get out of those pathetic power plays? I think it’s an illness but I also think those people can’t or won’t change.

  7. Passengers should be able to rate airline employees like Uber drivers.

    After each flight the AA iPhone app should show a photo, first name, and role (gate agent, flight attendant) of every employee who participated in that flight. Passengers should rate each employee on a 1-5 star scale.

    Such a system ought to be a lot more effective than those stupid surveys we receive in our email inboxes.

  8. From my experience over the last 25 years, if there’s a ‘hostile’ airline employee, it’s most often the gate agent rather than crew. They are the ones who get yelled at when there’s a problem of some kind. They don’t cause the problem(s) but they sure do take the brunt of the wrath from customers. They are also expected to enforce the rules and regs, most of which were designed by complete morons who never actually have had to abide by them. They deal with hundreds of people every day, a good portion of which are in a world of their own.

  9. I think a big problem is the airline employees have to enforce unpopular and, in many cases, down right stupid rules. That can’t be fun. But this guy takes on 3 bags…against the rules. He then skirts the rules by giving a bag to someone else. I bet this happens alot and then the next 20 people who have 3 bags say “well u let that guy do it”.

    I think if I had that many customers trying to break rules or decide rules don’t apply to them I’d be annoyed too.

    It doesn’t excuse rude behavior or being ignorant to customers. But in my travels I think in issues like this it is more often than not the customer that starts most confrontations.

  10. I’m probably going to have an unpopular opinion but if passengers as a whole wouldn’t have the attitude that the rules don’t apply to them, I think you’d have less of this. Employees have been conditioned by passengers that if they try to enforce the rules (albeit a lot are dumb from the FAA) that passengers are going to give them problems. From extra bags, to sitting in upgraded seats without paying, to being late to the plane and causing problems when their seat has been given away, etc.

  11. IME, LAX agents are some of the worst. Don’t know why. I understand the strict carryon enforcement on a bird like the A319, but on the A321T…there is tons of overhead space.

  12. There is no doubt that customers are rude. Some people can’t handle any amount of stress and when they travel they act out. I have seen this many times. That being said what I have also seen is FAs who escalate arguments rapidly and are unprofessional. I don’t know if the airline just doesn’t care to enforce good customer service or if because of the unions there is little the airline can do with these bad apples who do the bare minimum. The example in the article is the typical nonsense. I understand not letting the guy take more than one carry on, but when he said he had a friend the agent then demanding to know the guys name was absurd. Like some stranger is going to take someone else’s carry on on board.

  13. Shaun, I have been traveling by air for business for over 25 years and I could not disagree with you more. In my experience, it is the airline employee that initiates or encourages a confrontation. This is especially true since 9/1, since all,pax have been completely neutered and threatened with jail at the slightest provocation for the sake of security. Let’s face it, the hoi polloi know they are supposed to sit down in their cramped seat and shut up.

    Two disclaimers: 1) I have not witnessed many confrontations the last few years. 2) I do not fly in and out of New York City very often.

  14. After close to 2M miles on Continental/United, I truly can say 80% of the service I ever received was bad. What I really love is when the treat Plat traveling in First like garbage. What they don’t realize is it’s passengers like me that keep them employed.

    One of my favorite is the not allowing anything in the coat closet “due to weight restriction”…um sure. Another flight (international) was in First and a 200 year old flight attendant refused to open any port after the meal. She said it was not allowed–uh?? We are half way through the flight what do you mean. Oh, I mean we are out…so as I pass through the galley, I see a bottle unopened. Just pathetic service. Most domestic carriers quite frankly are just a titch better than traveling by bus. If FA’s don’t like their jobs–GET ANOTHER ONE!

    I can fly SingAir in economy and get better service than First International on domestic US carriers. Sad.

  15. These interactions are a daily occurrence and a typical reflection of the institutional power dynamics felt by minorities in the USA on a daily basis. I literally read this and thought “my own experience with cops, educators, landlords, security at the airport, etc.” This post reminds me of white privilege.

  16. I’m curious what ended up happening with the third bag?

    Carrying your buddy’s bag is not good form even if he was telling the truth…unless your friend has some sort of physical impairment. In essence, you are taking someone else’s overhead space that was rightfully earned (in the sense that whatever whim determines boarding order is right). May not have been a big deal in this case since it was just a couple of people. While I think the gate agent’s attitude sounded unnecessary, I always hope they say something to people that are clearly violating the carry-on rules. It gets quite annoying when they are trying to put their 3rd or 4th bad up top and holding up the line (not to mention the limited space). Just my thoughts, thanks for the great posts

  17. At first read, my immediate reaction was what a terrible employee, however, upon further thought, I am not as sure that the GA was just being disagreeable to be disagreeable. The passenger knew that what he was doing initially was wrong and just expected that he would get away with it because, as noted, the rules would not apply to him. The gate agent probably sees entitled ass hats like this many times every day and has simply had enough of them. Definitely not good customer service, but maybe not just being hostile for fun.

  18. I will never forget an AA gate agent at DCA that refused to clear us off the waitlist for a flight unless we checked our only carry-on bag. Five minutes of argument about it not being her discretion as we were number 1 on the list achieved nothing.

    Wasted an hour waiting for that bag at the other end. Useless.

  19. GA = A job I wouldn’t wish on anyone. More wacky behavior happens interacting with them than anyone else.

    FA = I’m very empathetic re: their challenges during the boarding process and cut them plenty of slack if they are sharing duties to get the whole plane buttoned up (meaning no staff dedicated to just First or Biz) Once we’re off the ground it is entirely reasonable to expect good-natured service that ensures the passengers are safe and provided with the services to which they are entitled.

  20. I totally agree with you on this one. I hate the culture of “can’t” or won’t because I don’t want to. I further hate passenger shaming which seems to be a new or not new favorite for many employees. Sure, we travel alot, maybe we should no better but many don’t. That’s why we need flight attendants in the first place.

  21. I’d lay most of the blame on terrible work conditions. It’s because of management that treats both employees and customers with disdain. If US airlines valued customers and didn’t want to squeeze every bit of money possible out of them, then customers would be nicer to employees. If US airlines valued employees, paid them fairly, and fostered a positive work environment, then employees would be nicer to customers.

  22. Two thoughts on this:
    1. I’m not a blind supporter of unions, but without them, flight attendants would be hired and fired based on age and appearance, and would have NO job security at all. How would YOU like to find a new career at age 45?
    2. I agree with those who support the enforcement of the rules (especially as it relates to overhead space abuse), but there is a right way to do it. How about “I’m so sorry sir, but you’re going to need to check one of those bags.” And, the beauty of this is that you can repeat it several times, each time more firmly, as the px objects. Another bonus: observers will always take the side of the calm, polite person over the angry, out of control person. (Disclaimer: I’m Southern. Politeness is more important to us than correctness. )

  23. So Here is my two cents. Levelheadedness, manners, attention to details, courtesy, problem solving and other airline related employee qualities are skills. This is really the airlines who are at fault. They pay very little money to people willing to work for those low wages – who simply do not have the skills necessary to carry out the tasks and extend the qualities necessary for a great product. So that passengers have gate staff that are smart, efficient, articulate, speedy, and able to problem solve the airlines need to hire more qualified people. Im not saying those that work for airlines are not nice people, or not qualified but they just don’t have what it takes to deliver service. You can train them all you want, but if airline staff don’t have the qualities passengers are screaming for, the airlines need to re-think who they hire, how they hire, and why they hire.

  24. In my experience I have actually ended up with a great flight crew. It tends to be the checkin and gate agents that are horrible.

  25. You crack me up MBH…those cry baby union workers you say “but without them, flight attendants would be hired and fired based on age and appearance, and would have NO job security at all” Hate to tell you pal, that what every other worker deals with. Airlines should be able to fire worthless workers and keep the good ones.

    The rest of the world deals with this everyday–time for unions to wake up. You su*k at your job you’re fired–capitalism. Get use to it.

  26. I suspect that employees of companies that have used bankruptcy to “renegotiate” contracts, who deal constantly with pax unhappy with increased fees, and which are increasingly dealing with a me-first culture cultivated by reality stars behaving badly may not be the friendliest. Still, the vast majority of airline employees I encounter are friendly, cheerful, and helpful.

    I give them the benefit of the doubt.

  27. So, ME, you think most people are in jobs where they’re likely to be fired based on age and appearance, regardless of how well they do their job? You must be a runway model.

  28. MBH is must be very insecure in your job/looks/age obviously. Love all of the great happy workers that are union…airlines, car makers, construction workers. Very forward thinking crew for sure. LOL.

    Now go pay your union dues and complain…I hope you are not serving me on my next First flight.

    Unions are dinosaurs, strong arming tactics are very 1950’s.

  29. BTW, that Emirate’s video is SPOT on about lazy US FA’s as a whole. The commercial is EXACTLY what you will see on any flight. Sitting down, eating food, complaining about their jobs, doing nothing to serve those that they are there to serve.

    BRAVO Emirate’s for calling a spade a spade.

  30. This is why im glad i live in asia. Even if the staff are incompetent or slow to learn, they’ll most of the time at least try to be nice

  31. There’s one particular gate dragon at DFW that mans the HKG flight and I’m sure many others. Once she tagged a handful of us EP for all having an extra “small” carry on. Mine was one roller, one backpack and a regular shoe bag I tied to the roller. One of the other EP’s was the same except a small gift bag instead of the shoe bag. We were all in the J cabin as well, hilarious.

  32. As with most things, there is always a cause and effect at play here. These behaviours by both passengers and airline staff have been going on for years.

    I happen to have worked with the airlines from the late 70’s to the early 90’s. I can tell you that no one (almost no one) comes to the airport deliberately wanting to have a bad day. Both airlines and passengers are to blame for the current state of air travel.

    There’s not enough time or room here to write about these issues. But I can tell you a little secret. Be nice to airport staff. Be courteous, cooperative and understanding. In return that airline employee will go out of their way to be helpful and nice to you. Be a jack ass and you will be treated as such, guaranteed.

  33. I had the same problem with a carry on recently. We bought a carry on before the sizers were re-fitted to not account for actually rolling the bag with wheels. So the wheels wouldn’t fit. We brought the bag here on the same aircraft and the bag fit fine in the overhead, wheels first. Nothing doing. Needs to be gate checked. Then the clincher to me. “Your bag looks too big as well”. I knew darn well my Travelpro would fit in the Draconian sizing unit. After proving so and removing the suitcase from the stone, I got this comment. “Well since you’ll have to wait for her bag anyway, you may as well check it”. No thanks, I said. When we got to the plane, the flight attendant saw the gate check tag for my wife and asked it we wanted to check it. When I said, no, but it didn’t fit so we had to. Then adding the gate agent wanted to check mine as well. She allowed us to bring both bags saying something to the effect of someone must be having a bad day.

  34. I don’t want to sound like I am making excuses,….in the last 15 years, airlines have treated their employees like garbage. In the US, it ultimately came to down who had the cheapest price. Whether it was an individual paying or a company paying, it drove the airlines to compete just on price. A lower and lower price with even lower profits. The bankruptcies followed, and survival of the fittest. There are 3 carriers, with alter ego 4th carrier, who really isn’t international at all….so there are 3 carriers. The employees had pay and every benefit cut, the FF had every benefit cut, and the stockholders lost their investments (which many times, were retirement investments). Guess who has been riding high for the last 15 years? The C Suite! All top airline executives made out really well, in every bankruptcy and merger. And still are doing very well, as Big3 have been very profitable for the last 3 years. All the other airline employees, well it has trickled down to flight crews, but the rest of the airline employees, are still fighting to get what they had before 9/11.

    So when I fly, I understand, and try to show a little empathy. Yeah, there are nasty employees out there, but hopefully some of the good ones make up for it.

  35. Everyone’s comments are correct and I don’t believe “rudeness “is an asset to be hired in the airline industry .
    This type of behavior is rearly ever seen or observed in employees of foreign airlines . The main difference is the fact that foreign airline cabin staff wear the uniform with pride and you see it in the simplest of ways , by observing the crew and staff as they walk so elegantly in the airports of the world , before and after a flight .

  36. This guy tried to take his household on board – like many other do. I am sick and tired of that. They do know the rules. The gate agent was correct. Period.

  37. I would expect exactly this type of behavior, or frankly even worse, if it were a United flight. It is my understanding that you need to be hostile to be hired by United Airlines! And in the event that you star out as a happy person who cares about doing an ok job, that will change real fast. Rude, unhappy, hostile, beligerent, just plain not nice — that describes United service. What is Oscar waiting for?

  38. Somehow I have noticed that this depends on the airline.. Air France has very rude FA, as well as, as someone has already mentioned, ground service at CDG.

    Their behavior is just awful. Rude, don’t speak English properly, completely not interested to customer needs. An I am not really a demanding customer.

    One example is boarding at CDG, where, I guess because of full plane, I was upgraded.
    The way and tone of voice the GA has told me this left me with a feeling that I have done something wrong, and that they have to upgrade me now, and that I should be eternally grateful to them.

    On the other hand Qatar airways have the most polite and professional staff I have ever seen. Always smiling & helpful.

  39. I agree that it comes down to people being ground down by customers. The agent may have been rude but I imagine it gets incredibly frustrating to have to deal people who who think the rules don’t apply to them.

    I’ve definitely seen more people talk to staff in the service industry like they’re a piece of dirt than I have staff being rude to customers.

  40. Some gate agents are pleasant and some are complete jackasses. It is the same in all types of industries. Customer service isn’t genuine for the most part. Those few amazing crew members and ground staff are the exception and it is sad.

    As far as gate agents getting the bulk of the wrath of the customers when something goes wrong, perhaps educating the flying public might get a FEW of the offending public to stop acting like children and treat gate agents with respect. The entire rant about being delayed when it is sunny at the gate is so stupid. These morons have NO idea how many factors come into play during air travel. They don’t understand the system. Now it would be nice if the flying public could watch a five minute youtube video put out by any US airline explaining how flight operations actually work. If they understood there are FAA guidelines, gate assignments, ATC, tower operation staff, and a bunch of other things that can delay or cancel a flight maybe they would pull their head out of their @$$ and stop being disrespectful to airline personnel. If you want to be treated with respect by employees, how about showing them some as well.

  41. Customer Care (like hospitality) is a thankless job. 5% of customers just zap the energy from customer care employees by their selfish behavior. Management zaps the energy out of you. Customer Care is a cost center, not a profit center. It generates no tangible income. It’s always going to be an area that gets cut first and has the lowest rung of dollars spent.

    The idea is to spend the least amount on customer care to provide the minimally acceptable level of customer support. Like cable companies, airlines are monopolies. You don’t have many choices, therefore, they don’t need to spend money on customer care to be a brand differentiation. Now some argue that SW is trying this and some foreign carriers like Thai Airlines excel at it. But your basic UA, AA or USAIR agent has seen their peers hours cut to eliminate benefits, to eliminate pensions and create a work force that has high turnover, no historical knowledge and little sense of “caring”. Are there exceptions, a few. But in general you need to have an attitude of self care, a sense of humor and chose when to pick your battles that have some real benefit.

  42. Traveling first and only one in F line, I was told to stay and wait for 30 mins by an Alaska agent at BWI, while they dealt with the queue of coach customers, nearly all of whom arrived after me. Eventually she had to deal with me because it was time to board, and she explained her snapping at me to wait because “We don’t have a lounge for you people!”
    My other experiences with Alaska have been excellent but she was dreadful.

  43. That is what happens when you make airlines employees “authorities”. They feel empowered to make your life miserable. If the guy argued with her she would call security, he would miss his flight and be in trouble just because the gate agent decided she was going to make his life miserable. Unbelievable!!!! Yesterday I got to the airport a little earlier for my flight and saw that the earlier flight was delayed and just started boarding. I ran into the gate and asked the agent if I could get in. Her first response was:”The flight is full and even if I had a seat you would have to pay $50.” Well, I then had to tell her I was a Platinum with Delta. She changed her attitude immediately!!! She looked at me and said:”I am so sorry I don’t have more first class seats but I can offer you an Economy Comfort seat if that is OK.” WTF!!!! Why didn’t she treat me like hat when I first asked and she did not know I was a Platinum member?

  44. I’ve often noticed that the more replaceable a person is, the more “empowered” they feel. A Walmart greeter would’ve handled the same situation with a lot more professionalism.

  45. Unions are the reason. If you can’t let bad people go, that sucks up a huge amount of your resources (that you could use to otherwise reward your great workers). Many years of this leads to self selection, of terrible workers staying, and some great people moving on.

    I have had some fantastic flight attendants on regional jets, that may need to work another 20 years to get long haul. Surely overnighting in another country is a lot more fun in your 20’s than your 50’s. The US seniority system actively leads to those with families who would rather sleep at home, being on international routes, harming their personal lives, and those in their 20’s at a life stage when travelling the world would be a perk, being stuck flying to small town US cities.

    Imagine for a minute that all US industries were run like airlines. You go to a nightclub in Vegas, and the hostess is in her 50’s, as she can finally work at a VIP club with her seniority, and angrily serves your drinks. The barman in his 60’s, slowly moves around pouring a drink every 5 minutes, he has worked through dive bars to get to the nice nightclub. People with families don’t take these jobs, as working until 4am, and then getting up at 6am to take the kids to school does not make a good or happy employee.

    Somehow the airline industry has it all backwards.

  46. He is not “skirting the rules” by having his friend carry the bag. If they’re both allowed 2 carry-ons, and he has 3 and his friend has 1, then by instead making it 2 and 2 they are not taking anyone else’s space.

    Also, my 2 cents: I’ve flown a lot (though definitely not nearly as much as some of the people commenting here, I’m sure), and usually in coach. Most of the time, the service I receive is just fine. Usually unremarkable, sometimes excellent and exceedingly friendly, and yes, sometimes not so great.

    I think people just notice more when one of the airline employees isn’t particularly nice or helpful, and tend to complain about them. Do they deserve it? Sometimes, sure. But not nearly as often as some of the people commenting here would have you think.

    These people have to deal with passengers attempting to break the rules every day – trying to bring a carry-on that’s too big, trying to board before their group is called, ignoring the seatbelt light, and I could go on and on. I for one applaud them for being strict about the rules, because otherwise people will push it further and further, making the experience worse for everyone.

    All that said, they were wrong about not letting the friend bring the extra bag in this case!

  47. @CaptainKirk – I agree with you…to a point. However, the airlines bring a lot of this on themselves. As you point out, the average flier doesn’t understand the various factors that can cause delays or cancellations. However, a lot of airline employees make absolutely zero effort to explain these factors, and all too often if you try to find out what’s going on, their immediate response is hostility, as if to day “how DARE you question us? Just go sit down and shut up, the plane will go when it goes.”

    And it gets worse – I was on a Delta flight to JFK that was delayed because the pilot’s seat wouldn’t move. Several passengers began to ask the FAs if they had any idea how long the delay would be, as they had connections to Europe and we were already an hour late. None of the passengers I heard were rude to the FAs, who were frustrated at this point too. The pilot then came on and started criticizing the passengers for even daring to ask about their connections, and that it was “only a seat”, with an undercurrent of “how dare you think we should maintain the plane so it doesn’t get delayed over a seat.”

    And there’s also the problem that too many (not all, not even a majority, but far too many) airline employees give out vague, partial information, or just flat-out lie, about delays. The pilot above told us, after take-off, that all the connections were taken care of for later that night, on other airlines if necessary. Well, after we got to JFK it turns out that wasn’t even close to true. I was in the back of the plane, and by the time I got off there were several very upset passengers talking to airline agents and being told that either they had not been reaccommodated yet, or that they had been rebooked for up to three days later. I overheard a maintenance employee tell a gate agent a plane was going to take at least two hours to repair. The GA made an announcement not two minutes later blaming the delay on ATC. (This was pre-Internet, these days it’d be harder to get away with this.)

    I’m not saying that all gate staff (or flight crew, for that matter) do things like this. But far too many do, and the airlines have developed a very bad reputation for either giving false information or, more commonly, no information at all. When passengers have some idea of what’s going on, it may give them options (reschedule the trip, look for a different flight, etc.), and at the least it makes them feel like they are customers, not just “self-loading cargo”. (If I was an airline exec, I’d sack any employee I ever heard use that phrase on the spot.)

    As for respect, everyone’s entitled to common courtesy, but respect is earned, and it’s up to the airline and their staff to earn our respect first – we’re the customers, our business makes their jobs possible.

  48. Having been in this business for 30 years, I see several reasons for the less-than-cheerful interactions:

    On a narrow body flight, we have 30 minutes to “turn” the plane, including attaching the jetway, opening the door, having 130 people pull their big carryons out of the overhead bin, getting the moving up the aisle as kids play, cry, block the aisle, assisting people with mobility limitations, running up the jetway to begin boarding, updating minute by minute boarding status in the computer, while monitoring and tagging (gate checks) the oversize bags, processing the standby passengers (elite status who are standing by for earlier flight), calling load control, delivering paperwork to the cabin crew, closing the door, removing the jetway.

    If we take a delay, even one minute, we are interviewed by a manager, who reviews that written record we’ve maintained while boarding. If the determination is made that WE (boarding agents) caused the delay, disciplinary action will follow. Note that actual GATE arrival and departure times are transmitted automatically by an onboard system called ACARS.

    Wide body aircraft are allotted 90 minutes for the aircraft “turn”. Same process, three times the number of passengers.

    I often wonder how we manage to remain courteous and professional. At the end of the day, it’s all we can do to stay awake, as we sit in traffic on the way home.

  49. @Bill – Got it. So basically, the daily challenges you face on your job and the performance metrics you’re subjected to (which the rest of us don’t on our jobs, somehow…?), makes it ok to be rude to your customers. Makes perfect sense. Also, just so you know, people in other lines of work also sit in traffic on their way home. Grow up.

  50. @Arun

    Wow you are accusing @Bill of being rude to whom? You? A little like the pot calling the kettle black! People like you, make customer service so difficult! Your condescending attitude and the comment about employees being replaceable, both speak volumes about your attitude. Airline employees are not slaves! Fly a Middle Eastern carrier, if you want to be treated like a master!

  51. @JohnB

    Thank you so much for that completely non-condescending remark about flying an ME carrier. You’re clearly an expert at being non-condescending. It’s been a really long time since I last flew an ME, but I’d imagine they treat you like a person, which you seem to confuse with ‘master’. Furthermore, I’m not sure your invitation to me (and ‘people like me’) to fly an ME would be well-received by the big 3 US carrier CEOs, who very much appreciate the revenue.

    Everyone is replaceable, just that some more than others. A gate agent or an FA like this one – http://nypost.com/2015/10/13/passengers-boo-as-woman-is-kicked-off-american-airlines-flight/ is a lot inexpensive to replace than a CEO. Courtesy is a fundamental requirement in the service industry. Sadly, it seems you haven’t experienced it much. Or perhaps, you just enjoy being treated like a petulant child.

  52. I was one of the first new hires in Dec 2015 for American Airlines as a gate agent. After 7 months walked off the job. Customers are very rude. The airline could care less about employees! For 10.12 an hour, and a “maybe” standby ticket. Hell No!

  53. I believe the real issue resides with self in titled pansies thinking flying is any different than buying a grey hound bus ticket. Everyone feels they are right or entitled but when you get down to it unless you chatter a private jet you are relegated to sitting in the pits of hell next to some ass clown you don’t want to speak to.

  54. An Stuart’s old lady got me kicked out of my flight because I had my wallet out in my hands at the time of boarding the plane. I had bought a pizza right before boarding my flight. I was traveling first class so instead of holding the line to take my wallet and computer out I decided to take it out as I approached my seat.
    The nasty Stuart ask me to put it away, I stepped to the side, as I started to put it away she started to call security. And had me kicked out of the flight. I was never aggressive, not even rude to her.
    Yet she was able to get me kicked out of my flight.

    Why don’t we have any rights as customers?
    Why can an agent treat us like crap, an get away with it?

  55. Last night in Portland Oregon, where people are notoriously NICE, the United gate personnel caused a half hour delay in the boarding by LITERALLY running down the gateway AFTER approving people and their carryons, grabbing them, screaming at them, and dragging them back up to the console to try to charge oversize fees. It was beyond rude, and to those of us still waiting out turns face the inquisition, it resembled something like a bad Vacation movie or an SNL parody. However, it was real.

    I paid $85 extra for a better seat on that plane because it was a redeye flight. It was a waste of money and should be refunded. I did not have extra space, even though I was in the second economy row. I had to stow my bag 10 rows further down the plane without assistance getting there or back. The first class bathrooms were out of order, so people lined up for the single toilet at the beginning of economy. People were allowed to stand in the aisle and hang over my seat back, even when the seat belt light was on. Apparently in flight safely is not as high a priority as collecting fees, since the flight attendants came by to offer food for purchase more than once, but not drinks. There were cats (yes, the type that meow all night) under my seat, but nobody checked to see if anyone was allergic. It was vastly unpleasant.

    My spouse once had 2 million frequent flyer miles on United. We agree that we will do our best to avoid it from now on.

  56. The fact that the ME & Asian carriers can consistently provide good service shows that the issue isn’t the job itself, nor even the asshole passengers. There’s no accountability in the US airlines. I always go out of my way to drop a line to corporate when an employee’s been exceptional. I also hand out Starbucks gift cards as a thank you. Despite the rules about upgrades & such, being nice and understanding still goes a long way.

    Something which would help ALL parties is better communication. Passengers, flight crews, ground crews, gate agents, etc., don’t generally talk to each other. Dispatchers and pilots do work with each other, but that’s about it. Good communication would go a long way.

    I have a friend who works at a GA for a US carrier. He makes pretty damn good money (~$20/hr). Work conditions are reasonably good. Flight benefits + tons of time off. The stories he tells (vents) about passengers are legitimate, but he seems to manage keeping a decent attitude about it. He also feels the pressure about turning the planes around. If there’s a delay, blame *has* to be assigned to a department. You better believe everyone tries to pass the buck when it comes to filling out the delay form. Likewise, TSA gives them almost as much grief as the passengers get.

  57. Airlines have polices .. if y’all listen to their announcements they tell you the policy so it’s really frustrating for a passenger to wait until they are in the boarding line to pull that, Passengers just don’t like to hear the word no or be told they can’t do something. Read up on the restrictions of your ticket before you act out. Gate agents don’t have patience for people that are looking for arguments or something for free. They have a deadline. 15 minutes to board everyone !!!!

  58. I have been an airline reservation agent (over the phone) for the past 5 years, and there are some great arguments on both sides. First, with regard to airline employees being more friendly in other countries, you may be exactly right. But, I can tell you without hesitation that foreign passengers are, on average, far more polite and friendly from the very beginning on the phone. Don’t get me wrong, I know broad stereotypes are dangerous. But, taking about 50-80 calls a day, 5 days a week, for 5 years, I can count on one hand the number of passengers with British or Australian accents that were rude to me.
    I rarely get into any arguments with passengers, but I sit near many people that do. I know that acting like that would just make me miserable. And, I would say it’s the 5% of the angry callers that can sour an employee into being less than their best self for the other 95% which is a shame.

    With all that said, there is very rarely a situation when an airline employee is justified in being rude to a passenger. Threatening an airline employee is no ok. Getting personal about an issue also is never helpful. I’ve had to grab the headset from female employees that are called “bitches”. In one instance, a passenger said, “I bet you are a horrible mother” to one of my co-workers.

    On the side of the passenger argument, I see/hear rude behavior from airline employees almost daily. But, just like passenger behavior, I would argue it’s the 5% of the poor employees that cast a negative shadow over the 95% who care. As one of the people that posted earlier pointed out, people tend to forget all their positive experiences with airline employees.

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