Thanks to American Airlines flight attendants, Kat and Patty

Note to new readers: Welcome to my flight attendant friends and all other crew members, gate agents and your loved ones. One or more of you were very kind to put up a link to this post on Facebook and it’s been getting referred around like mad. I’m just a regular scientist and relatively frequent traveler who appreciates humanity and kindness and just wanted to say something nice in public about y’all. And while you’re here, feel free to root around my content and see if there’s any science or medical topics that may interest you. clicking on any word in the “Category” cloud down on the right is a good way to do that. And here’s a little background on the blog.

Thank you for reading – see you in the air!

Saved from the middle seat on an American Airlines MD-80!

Let’s face it. We complain a great deal these days. And we especially complain about service and costs on airlines. But the folks who aren’t nickel-and-dimeing us on baggage fees, priority boarding, etc. are the ones on the front lines dealing with cranky travelers. So, I want to take this opportunity to say a few nice things about my flight crew today on American Airlines flight #1645 from Raleigh-Durham to Chicago O’Hare.

Chicago O’Hare is a very common connecting airport for flights out of Raleigh-Durham and I could only book a middle seat in the next-to-last row of the plane. I was willing to even pay the additional premium fee to get a window or aisle seat but none was available.

I’ll commonly chit-chat with the flight attendants as I board the plane just to find out how long of a day they’ve had, where they’re ending up at the end of this leg, and whether they get to stay at home tonight. As I said, it’s a pretty thankless job these days and I think that everyone deserves some appreciation (and commiseration), especially since these are the folks who will save me if we have to land on the Hudson River or equivalent.

As I tried to sneak an open window seat at the very back of the plane, the very last person to board the plane looked at me with contempt because I was sitting in his seat. Displaced, I took my 6’2”, 217 lb. body back to my assigned middle seat much to the dismay of my fellow travelers.

But relief came to me in the form of an angel with wings – the American Airlines winged badge, I mean – flight attendant Katerina Braganza Tierney. There were two open seats at the bulkhead and she motioned to me to follow her up the length of the cabin. Ahhh, legroom and a window seat. Even fellow flight attendant Patty (I didn’t get her full name) said that she was glad that Kat had moved me. They gave me a full can of club soda at refreshment time and Kat even gave me another one when I went back to get her name to write this post and send a note to the AA customer comments office. (I offered to post her picture here but she said that the home office doesn’t take kindly to flight attendant photos on the web).

Anyway, I just wanted to recognize a couple of folks who very kindly made my trip much more enjoyable. Yes, this was a small gesture in the grand scheme of things. But we often spend more time complaining about customer service than thanking people (what’s your ratio of airline complaint letters to airline thank-you letters?).

So, thank you Kat and Patty for making my trip to Chicago most enjoyable. You folks get a lot of grief these days. So when you do something nice for a tall dude with an arthritic knee, you deserve some kudos. I’ll send the link to this post to AA customer comments. Hoping to see you on another American flight!

Update 5 July 2011, 12:30 pm – Just got this nice tweet back from the Twitter account of American Airlines:

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23 Responses to Thanks to American Airlines flight attendants, Kat and Patty

  1. Haha – nice one.

    My trick is to always ask for an aisle seat and to sit near the back of the plane on long haul flights. My recent international flight had the front of the plane jam packed and the back almost empty … I got 4 seats to myself in the back row and was able to lie flat and sleep.

  2. Cindy Salo says:

    David,

    Good for you! I also check to see how the flight crew is doing when I board a plane (in addition to having to put up with a lot of guff from people, my life is in their hands). I’ve had great fun with the delightful folks I’ve met while flying. One flight attendant told me that chocolate is always appreciated, so I sometime get Ghirardelli’s at an airport shop and leave it with the gate agent as the crew is getting ready for their next flight.

    Cindy

  3. Cindy Salo says:

    re: sending compliments to AA. One of the loveliest and most competent people I’ve ever met took my order at a sandwich shop in Las Vegas McCarran Airport a couple years back. I asked her how I could tell her supervisor how great she was and she told me to call the number on my receipt. Calling the number plunged me into a lengthy phone tree where the only option was to COMPLAIN about the service or food. It also gave me a website where I hoped I might have better luck. Alas, the website was as unsatisfying. The company that the lovely woman worked for expected her customers to complain about her. I believe there is a lesson in that, which I tried to squeeze into the 250 characters allotted to me.

  4. SkyGirl74 says:

    David,
    Thank you so very much for taking the time to write such a nice letter about my fellow co-workers (whom I have never met ). Its the tiniest things like just asking how OUR day is going that MAKE our day :). I truly LOVE my job as a flight attendant and have NEVER dreaded coming to work. The passengers are my guests and my responsibility during flight, and its important to make ALL feel welcome and sAAfe :)

  5. David Kroll says:

    Cindy, I learned how to get over the 250-character limit: I wrote this blogpost, wrote a short excerpt, and then included the URL!

  6. David Kroll says:

    SkyGirl74, that’s great to know. And thank you for all you do for our safety and comfort. As I wrote, the things that annoy air travelers (i.e., TSA personal space intrusions, baggage fees, change fees, etc.) are far beyond your control. You’re here at the front line, making our trip as nice as possible and will certainly be the ones to guide us to safety in event of an accident.

    “sAAfe” – I love it!

    I’ll have to also take Cindy’s advice above and bring chocolate!

  7. Humanshield says:

    Cindy, you have to give the chocolate DIRECTLY to the crew. There is no way to insure that the gate agent will give it to them.

  8. Chris says:

    However, the gate agents have one of the worst jobs in the industry (talk about thankless). So if they end up with the chocolate, I know they’ll appreciate it too.

    Chris
    Flight Attendant

  9. Chris says:

    Thanks David!

    Those “little” sincere interactions with my passengers are few. However, when they come, they can turn my 13th our on duty, fourth flight of the day, 7th day away from home, much more bearable. Thanks for thinking of others – may sound cynical – but 90% of the folks I come in contact with seem to be unaware of the feelings/needs of the dozens around them. Your behavior has a “halo” effect and influences those who see you behaving in a kind/gracious manner. Keep it up my friend. Hope to see you on an American flight I’m working!

    Thanks again!

    Chris
    American Airlines Cabin Crew Member

    [The next section of Chris' comment is bolded by me to raise attention to his points - David]

    PS- To your readership. Don’t forget folks, we are not only trained to save you in an evacuation on the Hudson (or dry land), but also trained to treat you should you suffer a stroke, seizure, heart attack or other serious health emergency. We are trained to protect the cockpit, occupy the cockpit when a pilot needs to use the lav, and operate cockpit equipment (O2 systems primarily). We are trained in countless security strategy matters that I am forbidden to share with you. We are trained fire fighters. We are trained to prepare you and the aircraft for an emergency landing. We have been taught how to subdue the insane, drunk, or persons with malicious motives to hurt the occupants of the aircraft. The list goes on and on. Our safety/security manual is a couple thousand pages long. We don’t just serve Pepsi’s (or club sodas!). :-) So fear not, and happy flying!

  10. Cindy Salo says:

    Wow, Chris!

    I knew that my life is your hands when I fly, but I didn’t know the full capabilities of those hands. How lovely, thanks for telling me.

    Cindy

  11. Erin says:

    Thanks for taking time out to say something nice! We flight attendants appreciate it, more than you ever know!

  12. Aww. As the spouse of an airline employee, thank you.

  13. David Kroll says:

    That’s right, Maryn , I forgot that your dear husband is an airline guy. Thanks for the reminder!

  14. Chris Perry says:

    David, thanks for posting this on your blog. I am a friend and fellow colleague of Kat’s. It doesn’t surprise me that she went out of her way to make your flight more enjoyable. Kat and I are based in Chicago flying on domestic routes and were previously based in Boston flying on international routes. We were even in purser training together a few years back. I have had the pleasure of working with her on a few flights and I know from first hand what an awesome flight attendant she is. I love my job as much as she does and it makes me feel proud when a passenger commends a fellow flight attendant. Again, thanks for taking the time to post about her and Patty on your blog.

  15. Chris says:

    David,

    I thought my wife would appreciate your blog about under-appreciated airline crew members. She, too, sees (in the media, on airplanes, through stories from me) almost nothing but contempt for people in my profession. So I showed her your kind comments and those of your readership. It brought her to happy tears (literally). So again thanks, David. And isn’t this an interesting piece of social science? Such extreme emotions about something that, on the surface, would seem pretty benign. Someone from a local university in the psychology or sociology department might find this interesting.

  16. jenny says:

    Wow, as an AA flight attendant, not only was I grateful to read a scarce but greatly appreciated complement to co-workers but I was also brought to tears by the additional comments made by fellow flight attendants and passengers. In these days of increasing abuse and decreasing kindness, it restores my faith to see others with caring and concern for not just us sky warriors but mankind in general. It does my heart good and improves my attitude and dedication to a difficult job that I love. Thanks to all who wrote…you made my day!

  17. jenny says:

    P.S. And thanks to David Kroll for his kind and well-written comments that started all this! I hope to have you on one of my flights soon!

  18. David Kroll says:

    Chris, I’ve been quite touched by the outpouring of thanks for, as you say, a relatively benign positive commentary. Some of you must be posting links to this on Facebook because I see a lot of traffic coming to this post from FB referrals. Thanks so much to all of you – I hope that you stick around to read some of my posts about drugs and health!

    The pleasure was mine, jenny – we spend way too much time complaining these days so it’s nice to have a chance to say, “thank you.”

    I hope to see you as well – I fly American regularly out of RDU.

  19. Chris says:

    American Airlines posted a link to this article on its internal employee website – hence the increase in traffic.

  20. Chris says:

    Though that would not explain the FB traffic….sorry, haven’t had my coffee yet….

  21. Randal says:

    Mr Kroll, you are the best sir!! I am a Chicago based American Airlines flight attendant, and actually know Katerina personally and have worked with her. It’s really wonderful that you took the time out of you busy schedule and life to express your appreciation to my co-workers. I find that good service and kindness are taking for granted these days, and completely overlooked by most. You go out of your way to say hello to the flight crew during boarding which is great. But, do you know that during boarding when saying hello to the passengers boarding our plane, that most wont even acknowledge or respond to the flight attendant that just spoke to them? That is a very very hard way to start a flight and try to maintain a good attitude and good customer service. You are a breathe of fresh air and one of the biggest VIP’s my airline has!! I’m proud you choose to fly with us, and I’m proud to call the two ladies who helped you my co-workers. Thank you!

  22. Chris says:

    Unfortunately, Randal is correct. When greeting passengers as they board, roughly half do not respond – they just breeze by within inches of us. Interestingly, if I am standing in the cockpit doorway when addressing passengers as they board, I get more responses from them. (I am male and my uniform looks similar to that of a pilot.) So it seems that if customers perceive me as a pilot rather than a cabin crewman, they are more likely to respond to my, “Hello, how are you?”.

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