Just how bad is it out there? I publish a lot a lot of stories from disgruntled passengers, hotel guests and motorists on this blog. But what about the experiences of the people who are often providing the services that they’re complaining about?
I get a fair amount of angry e-mails from airline employees, but most of them don’t cover any new ground. They criticize passengers and lash out at me for giving them a voice. For them, the “comments” section of this site is always open.
But yesterday I received an illuminating e-mail from a former US Airways gate agent named Helen Clifford that suggests airline employees are suffering as much as passengers.
There is no formal training for the first three months and you are kind of on your own.
You had to purchase your own uniforms and could not get any time off for the first six months because you were on probation.
The pay ($8.72/hr) and the hours (5 a.m. to 11:30 a.m . or 12 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.) including weekends amazed me. Since these jobs are unionized, there was no room for any negotiations.
The first week I was there a US Airways pilot pulled me aside and said I should work for Southwest Airlines. He said they treat their employees much better.
The seasoned employees were so jaded that they couldn’t wait to retire. They did not treat the passengers nicely.
I am college-educated (Bachelors degree) and thought the benefits of free flights would help my family out with visiting our daughter in college. With the oversold flights and the standby guidelines, you could never plan on getting on a flight.
When I resigned I was not even asked why.
No wonder the airline business cannot retain decent employees. Plus, the way ticket agents are treated by many passengers, it is just not worth it. I think the airline business is in a deep spiral.
Just as a reality check, I ran this reader mail past a US Airways insider. That person verified key parts of this letter, but also noted that other legacy airlines face similar morale problems and are unable to retain new employees.
So what does this mean to you?
Next time you’re at the ticket counter, be nice. You might be working with a veteran ticket agent who will be crabby and know that they can’t be fired. You don’t want to incur that person’s wrath. Or second, you could end up with someone like Helen. New to the job, working bad hours and feeling no love from her colleges.
Either way, your smile and politeness will go a long way to making everyone’s day a little better.