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Tue, Aug 26, 2008

It Ain't Easy Being A Flight Attendant

Cabin Crews Are Public Face For Ridiculous Airline Policies

Forty years ago, openings for airline flight attendants drew mostly attractive young women interested in travel and glamour. Today, given the need to face passengers angry over rising fees and declining customer service standards, you just might want a psychology degree and a black belt.

Whether its $5 snacks on Northwest, $7 pillows on JetBlue, $15 first bags on United or tarmac strandings on American, it's flight attendants who face the frustrations and occasional outbursts of frustrated passengers.

Roland Rust, executive director of the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland and an expert on airline service, says the job has become a thousand times tougher.

"The flight attendant has to deal with a bunch of surly passengers. It’s a nasty work environment," he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Michael Boyd, an airline industry expert from Denver, tells the paper the job has become much harder than it was even a year ago.

"Airlines have increasingly stupid rules they inflict on people. If a flight is canceled, good customer service says put them on the first available flight," he said. "Today, some say we can’t do that —- we’ll have to charge $25 —- and the flight attendants are stuck dealing with this stuff."

Boyd says, however, there may be one upside in the new reality. "I could see the flight attendants making the argument, 'Hey, it's tough out there...so, we want some compensation.'"

FMI: www.nwa.com, www.jetblue.com, www.united.com

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