For a while now I have been deeply interested in reading information about travel and in watching the videos of world travelers whose interest mirrors my own and whose travels can give me ideas for things that can be accomplished to create memories in unexpected approaches to travel and unusual places to go to. For example, one mild-mannered British traveler has made a note of traveling to obscure airports, and in taking unusual routes that has been of interest to me personally, in particular in the milk run he took from Seattle to Anchorage that looks very appealing as a way to visit out-of-the-way Alaska airports on what could otherwise be just a basic and ordinary trip. More on that later, I suppose. One of the other sorts of channels I watch have been pilots discussing flying, whether one looks at viral videos, memes, their own personal experiences, the confessions of flight crew and cabin crew, accidents and near-misses, and the logistics and experiences of travel and the relationships between various people. It has struck me that a great many people who should be friends and allies simply are not.
Let us set the stage. The comments section to social media posts can be a toxic place, but it is also a place where the toxicity reveals something of the troubled nature of contemporary work life. I was reading a story online that was long on speculation and short on facts about a lawsuit filed by a former United Airlines flight attendant who was staying at a Marriott hotel in Delaware for quarantine after having picked up Covid-19 on the job who supposedly was engaged in behavior that was reported by the hotel to the airline to his detriment. Not having the facts in the case, and expecting those to be revealed at length in civil proceedings, possibly ending up in some sort of settlement, I will endeavor not to discuss the particulars of the case given my ignorance of both facts and law in the matter.
What I would like to discuss, though, is the comments section of this particular article. A great many people from both flight and hospitality backgrounds spoke up about various matters, and as a traveler with no particular ties with either industry except that I like to fly and I also like to stay in hotels and that I hope I am a gracious customer in both circumstances, I found the discussion and commentary to be fascinating as well as a bit troubling. A great many of the people whose background was in flying discussed how it is that sometimes pilots and other flight and cabin crew received benefits for stays during work travel and sometimes not but that they frequently also traveled on their own and used corporate discount codes and received perks and benefit status for so doing. Also, a great many hotel employees past and present spoke up to claim that they didn’t like dealing with pilots, or to an even greater extent, cabin crew, and that someone who disobeyed rules about staying in one’s room in a virtual house arrest (only being able to leave to eat once a day) should be brought up on attempted murder charges for supposedly endangering the health of others. Other commenters were even less friendly.
Both those who work in planes and those who work in hotels and restaurants and other places should consider themselves allies. All of them work in stressful and (in pandemic times) somewhat dangerous jobs to provide services to customers and sometimes to each other. One would think that these people would be able to have some empathy about how both of them have to deal with divaesque and entitled customers and how both of them are often put in harm’s way because they are economically dependent on dealing directly with traveling people who, regrettably, sometimes also serve as plague vectors. I should note for the record that I have done my fair share of work in this field myself over the course of my travels, but that is a story for another time. Yet this is not the case. When flight crew and apparently especially cabin crew are off the job, their own restraints are off and they often behave in a manner that offends those hospitality workers who are on shift while the cabin crew are drinking and carousing and the like while off-duty. This does not appear to inspire a feeling of fellowship with others with whom they share a great deal of similarities in terms of their job duties. And who is to say that hotel workers do not decompress with similar degrees of wildness and offend some other sort of people who happen to have to deal with their desire to release the stresses of dealing graciously with jerks on a regular basis.
One of the aspects that is to be noted in all of this is that as people we tend to react personally to problems that are not personal in nature. If a flight attendant goes a bit wild because they are being put into what amounts to house arrest in a hotel for weeks where they are only permitted to leave their isolated hotel room once a day to eat or do anything else, I can understand them being upset if the hotel snitches on them to their bosses for wanting to go outside the hotel room more often given that they contracted the disease on the job and understandably don’t want to feel imprisoned, even in moderately comfortable circumstances. I can also understand people who work for hotels being upset at the shenanigans that people put them through when they are trying to deal with the stress of flying and dealing with other customers on a regular basis. People in our contemporary age are difficult to deal with. None of us like dealing with them. All of us get stressed out about it, and we do not always deal with that stress in a constructive manner. But other service employees are not the enemy. Empathy is required in two directions. For one, we have to be aware that the people who serve us on planes, in hotels, or in restaurants, or anywhere else, are people who may understandably find it to be stressful to be friendly to rude and ungracious and unfriendly people. People who work in those industries may not always be aware that their attempts to release that stress place pressure on others who work in similar businesses with the same underlying structural pressures of dealing with people, and they might also need empathy in recognizing that other service employees may not always deal with their stress from work in the most productive of manners. If being kind did not exact such a tax on us, we might find it easier to encourage that on all parties involved.