Monday, July 25, 2016

Older and Long-Serving Air-Cabin Staff Need not be Sullen and Inefficient

For international travel, my first choice is Singapore Airlines.  However I often book Qatar Airlines, a close second in impeccable service, because of lower fares. (I have heard that the Emirate is subsidizing the airline to build its prestige and customer base.) Two demographics distinguish the cabin staffs of both airlines. :  they are predominantly female and within the 25 to 35 year-old age bracket.

Service on my rare journeys by American Flag carries – Delta, American and United fall well below the standard of Singapore and Qatar.  This saddens me since in the 1970s when I began an international travel regimen, Pan American and TWA, now both defunct, were the world leaders.  Not only are staff members less proactive and efficient, but also noticeably less cheerful.  Many seem only to be “putting in their time,” reluctantly fulfilling the obligations of a career they no longer find rewarding. My own impressions have been confirmed by friends and colleagues who, for various reasons must frequent  American flag carriers for international travel more regularly.

In addition to quality of service, what has also distinguished the American Flag Carrer cabin staffs has been their demographic:  many are in their 30s, 40s and, perhaps, even 50s.  This had pointed me towards two generalizations:  (1) cabin service ought to be a profession for the young; this is not a job that women and men over age 35 find rewarding.  (2)  American work-rules forbidding “age discrimination” require airline managements to keep lower-performing older staff members on the job. 

A recent trip on British Airways, from Tampa to London and London to Delft gave the lie to my generalizations.  Cabin staff members were neither young nor slim (they were predominantly, not exclusively, female). However they were not only warmly welcoming but efficient. I would gladly choose British Airways again and look forward to the journey, should the need arise.

What explains the disparity?  Clearly it is neither the age or years of service of cabin staff members.  Rather, I believe the explanation is high quality versus slovenly, and or indifferent and oppressive management on the part of those who supervise them. 


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