I don’t want to write about the Jet Blue flight attendant because he isn’t a hero.
I do want to write about flight attendants. Back in the day, I managed the Human Resources function for a corporate aviation group. I worked with men and women who were veterans of the commercial aviation industry. These were flight attendants, pilots, and maintenance workers who escaped from the major carriers and lived to tell about it.
I have sympathy for aviation workers — and flight attendants, in particular. They deal with tough working conditions, horrible managers, and awful passengers. I know it’s a crappy job.
I also know that they are their own worst enemies.
- The barrier to being a flight attendant is low. Any chimpanzee can do that job, and there’s a ton of competition for a few openings in the industry. When you have a group of unskilled workers competing for a single job, they focus on undermining one another instead of improving the profession.
- There is no career path. When you have limited opportunities for growth, you have the same stale people fighting over the same stale jobs. Something stupid like seniority is more important than having a meaningful skill. It’s easier to fight one another for rank instead of fighting to be a credible voice for airline and passenger safety.
- The unions have been neutered. There is something to be said for employees who organize. I admire people would rather walk than compromise air quality, passenger safety, and personal integrity. Not flight attendants. They would rather quibble amongst themselves and argue with other aviation unions than walk out of a job. See point #1. They can’t walk. They would be replaced in a heartbeat.
I know that many Americans are sick and tired of feeling victimized and overwhelmed at work. Someone has to take a stand and make a statement. I wish we could find a hero who speaks on behalf of flight attendants and workers everywhere.
I say keep looking for your hero. It’s not Steven Slater.