Civility: Stressful flights threaten civility

A recent airline flight has resulted in a civility issue with altercations involving a flight attendant and a passenger. As is a common procedure, after landing, the flight attendant had asked passengers to remain seated until the plane came to a complete stop. Many passengers are lax in following the federal regulations when the flight attendants are sharing safety information on take-off and landings. Because some passengers fly many times and hear the same messages, the words sometimes lose their significance.

In this situation, a passenger stood up before the seatbelt sign had been turned off and attempted to take her baggage from the overhead bin. In doing so, she accidentally hit the flight attendant on the head. This incident may have been the final stress in his airline career. With the microphone, he hurled expletives at the offending passenger, and toward the other passengers on the plane. When the plane stopped, he took two beers, opened the flight chute and went down the chute with a not-so-nice farewell message.

Many clapped and because of unhappiness in their job, many could identify with Mr. Flight Attendant. They, too, would like to leave their job in a celebratory manner. Was he right? Were they right in celebrating his actions? Were some of the passengers correct in the way they spoke with distain toward the flight attendant's words and actions? Was the public right in hailing him as a hero?

For quite a while, tensions have arisen with passengers who are stressed over new airline regulations and security, overcrowded airplanes, extra fees, delays on tarmacs, elimination of meals, fewer benefits and more restrictions. To many, flying is often a bigger stress than it is a pleasure. Is this stress an excuse for rudeness, lack of restraint, and lack of civility? Flight attendants have many stresses, particularly in dealing with unruly passengers, pay reductions, federal regulations, and security issues. Life has stresses.

More than others, a person who chooses to work in the customer service business needs to practice self-restraint. They need to remain calm, handle those who are rude, complain and have a generally negative attitude. Mostly listening to the disgruntled persons can calm them, prevent escalation of the problem and help to create solutions. Specifically, those attendants in a passenger safety position need to be calm in all situations that arise, whether it be an emergency, security, or interpersonal communication issues.

For example, if there is a strong unexpected loud noise, startled passengers look at the facial expressions and body language of the flight attendants to see if they need to be concerned about a possible emergency. They need the reassurance that they are protected. A flight attendant's job is to support federal safety rules, regulations, and to be able to help the passengers exit the plane in an emergency landing. Frustrations for them occur when passengers disregard the rules, and possibly endanger the lives and safety of others.

Questions of civility can best be answered with a personal question about the consequences of rudeness and the lack of self-restraint. What if everyone said and did everything they thought and felt? Or would this be a better world that is happier and safer, if there were more consideration and kindness toward others? While stressful flights may threaten civility, there is much that can be done to minimize this stress. It is up to all parties.

DIANA OLSON, MA AICI CIP, is a certified etiquette & civility specialist/image stylist. She can be reached at http://www.dianaolson.com or (626) 584-9761.

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