This is actually an old phenomenon which has gotten an upgrade for the viral video age. Interviews with airline flight attendants published in Time Magazine reveal that there’s a lot of complaining going on. But it’s not about their employers in this case. No, the skyhops are considerably more peeved at all of you nasty passengers who are far more obstinate, undisciplined and, most horrifying of all, prone to taking videos of them doing their jobs and turning them into villains.
The fury has died down, but the rash of viral confrontations on airplanes is still very much on flight attendants’ minds. They are demoralized and anxious, afraid of becoming the villain in a cellphone video that spreads across the globe — creating a situation some say could result in safety lapses on planes.
Several flight attendants who spoke to TIME said they have seen colleagues ignore unbuckled belts, incorrectly placed bags and similar violations of federal safety rules in order to avoid sparking confrontations with passengers. “A lot of flight attendants feel uncomfortable performing essential job functions and responsibilities because one angry person can change our employment status,” said Ben, a flight attendant working for a major U.S. airline, who spoke on condition that his last name not be used.
I suppose, “one angry person can change our employment status” is one way to put it. Another might be, one ticked off passenger who’s tired of being treated like rejected baggage might get us fired. The list of complaints being put forward by airline employees ranges from some possibly valid concerns (such as people not following safety protocols) to the outrageous. One attendant implied that it was all because of the proliferation of viral videos making it seem as if airline travel is more unpleasant, leading to people acting out.
This is a rather crazy conclusion to draw. What’s far more likely is that people have been having terrible experiences on planes for quite a while now, particularly since the lack of competition has led to rapidly degrading conditions and levels of service on planes. But it was only once people began routinely filming them on their phones and publishing the material online that the mainstream media began picking up on the story. If there’s any validity at all to the complaints being aired here, it’s possible that more people are growing less willing to put up with the abuse since they now know it’s not just an isolated incident.
Compare this to the phenomenon of people filming encounters with employees at retail establishments on the ground. It’s pretty much the same thing. More servers got in trouble when their behavior went viral but it’s not because there was suddenly a proliferation of rude servers. It’s just that more people were filming them. Yes, that probably cost some people their jobs, but it’s unlikely that was the first time they had misbehaved. It was just easier for them to be caught up in it after good quality phone video became so commonplace.
So, no… airline customers probably aren’t getting any “worse.” And the service being provided hasn’t gone downhill at a faster rate. It’s just that more people are finding out about it and paying attention.