I have been a flight attendant for a major carrier for 17 years, and I’m sorry to say that I am leaving. I can’t do it anymore. I once had a job that I loved—I had pleasant conversations with passengers and was proud to hand out The New York Times in flight and serve edible meals. I looked forward to spending time in New York, Boston, Seattle, and other cities, and my co-workers were generally happy; I felt like I was part of a family. But things have changed, drastically.
These days, the disintegration of the industry is palpable. I’ll still come to your rescue if you have a heart attack or if we have an emergency landing. But instead of focusing on the comfort and safety of passengers, my job duties have been reduced to explaining why we don’t offer food, pillows, or blankets on five-hour transcontinental flights, why your children are sitting five rows behind you, or why the flight is delayed four hours without a logical explanation. It’s embarrassing and exhausting. There are no more 30-hour layovers in Manhattan; more like eight-hour layovers in a hotel adjacent to the airport. My co-workers are fatigued to the point of borderline psychosis. Passengers are squished into miniscule seats on jam-packed flights. They look up at me, miserably. I wish I could help, but I can’t.
Since claiming bankruptcy in November of 2011, our airline has outsourced many of its positions. They have let go of mechanics, gate agents, cabin cleaners, and other employees who have worked for us for decades, as a cost-saving measure. Unfortunately, though, penny-pinching in this manner has rendered consequences: According to George Hobiaca of AirfareWatchdog.com, pink-slipping our mechanics has already proven disastrous: “If [the airline] lays off maintenance workers as a prelude to outsourcing the work to third parties, consumers will have to deal with ‘substandard’ results, from filthy lavatories to safety risks.” (September 21, 2012)
And yeah, the smell of urine and excrement in our neglected lavatories is overwhelming. And sadly, on September 26 of this year, a Miami-bound Boeing 757 had to divert to New York after taking off from Boston, resulting in rows of seats coming loose. Who can forget the horrifying image of those skewed, broken rows? But should we expect intact seats when much of our labor is outsourced overseas?
And those employees who are lucky enough to still have jobs, have sacrificed pay, labor rules, and benefits. Our company claims labor costs are what has brought our airline to bankruptcy. So we laborers have come to its rescue. We believed there was no other choice. Yet hundreds of management employees received bonuses just after we sacrificed concessions. Hence, my exhausted, broken co-workers.
This environment is not acceptable for me. My company’s low morale and Draconian work rules have defeated me.
Like most passengers today, this fight attendant has had enough.