I stand corrected on flight attendants.
As I started working on this post, I honestly had something much more negative in mind, like "5 Flight Attendant Snafus That Will Turn You Off of Flying For Good" or "5 Flight Attendants Horror Stories That Will Make You Second Guess Your Next Flight." But as I started to search for scandalous tales of bonkers flight attendant behavior, what I found softened my cynical consumer heart.
Don't mistake me here: flight attendants have had a rough year or so in the news.
A few years ago, one American Airlines flight attendant lost her marbles over the loudspeaker, threatening everyone on the plane and making very clear her feelings about her employer.
Just last year, cell phone video of a testy American Airlines flight attendant getting booed for booting a bewildered passenger from a flight made the rounds. The flight attendant definitely came out looking like the villain.
And then there was that WTH moment back in September 2015 in which rapper Azaelia Banks cursed, spit on, and got into a physical altercation with a male flight attendant.
The latest chapter in the "Flight Attendants Behaving Badly" saga came in January when two angry Delta flight attendants came to blows in midair over "work issues," striking a passenger who tried to intervene, and forcing the plane to divert from its course and make an emergency landing.
Let's face it: flight attendants are an easy target, but they also navigate one of the most stressful jobs out there and they do it day in and day out, often for long hours. Considering their working conditions, the vast majority of flight attendants do a stellar job, and some even go above and beyond the call of duty to serve passengers in stressful situations.
If you're in the mood to gripe about how terrible flight attendants are, just try to maintain your stony heart as you read these five stories:
If you're not from India, you probably don't recognize this name. But Neerja Bhanot was a 22 year-old flight attendant aboard Pan Am Flight 73 when it was hijacked by four gun-toting terrorists on September 5, 1986. She was credited with shouting the hijack code as the attack began and then hiding the passports of 41 Americans on the flight to keep them from being identified, which would have surely led to their executions. After a tense 17 hours, the hijackers sprayed their hostages with bullets and began planting bombs on the aircraft. In response, Neerja opened the emergency exit to let as many as hostages out as possible. The terrorits opened fire on the fleeing passengers, Neerja threw herself in front of three young children to save them, and died as a result of her injuries, along with 20 passengers.
After news of her acts reached the public, Neerja was granted bravery awards by the governments of Pakistan, India, and the United States. A movie based on these events premiered in India on February 19 to widespread praise, reigniting the country's appreciation for the sacrifice of a very special flight attendant.
Taking young children, especially infants, on a long flight is enough to make any parent consider another mode of travel. But what about when you're traveling with three infants and a two year-old?
One stay-at-home mom found herself on a Delta flight in this very situation, likely expecting to hear the usual frustrated sighs from other passengers and the unhelpful promptings from flight attendants to keep the babies quiet. When it came to finding a place to comfortably use her electric breast pump so she could feed her three infants, the most she was expecting was a spot in the galley. But the response of the flight attendants blew her away.
"They said they didn't actually have an outlet, but that I could sit in the empty first class seat and use that power source since it was more spacious than the coach seat where I was sitting the rest of my flight," the passenger said.
Throughout the rest of the flight, this mom was allowed to stay in first class and even had water and food brought to her.
This positive experience with these Delta flight attendants made such an impression on the passenger that she immediately took to Facebook to let everyone know about it and to thank the flight attendants.
We often see flight attendants who are clearly sick of dealing with people; offering an elevated (pun not intended) level of care is obviously not in the picture for them. But then you see stories like this.
Earlier this month, this image of a Thai Airways flight attendant spoon-feeding an elderly passenger on a flight from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur began to make the rounds on social media.
Thomas Lim, who witnessed the uncommon act of kindness and snapped the photo, commented:
"Saw something that really touched me. This air steward on Thai Airways TG417 from Suvarnabhumi BKK to KLIA today fed an elderly gentlemen his meal. This elderly gentleman has problems eating by himself so this air steward helped him to eat. Very good to see kindness like this. His kindness should be applauded and praised."
In a profession where human caring and concern is so often ignored, this story highlights those flight attendants who take it upon themselves to not only keep their passengers safe and fed, but also help them feel cared for.
File this one under the same category as "The Rapping Flight Attendant" and "The Standup Comic Flight Attendant," the category of flight attendants who inject a little levity into the usually stressful experience of flying.
With Winter Storm Jonas bearing down on the Washington DC area, and undoubtedly making travelers antsy, one flight found out it was going to get out of Dodge on time. One Southwest Airlines flight attendant initiated an impromptu celebration, playing Pharell's hit song "Happy" over the loudspeaker and dancing down the aisles during her pre-flight check.
The mood was infectious and passengers reportedly joined in the celebration.
Another story of a nervous child-toting parent on a flight. We've already covered how nerve-wracking it can be to fly with young kids (btw, people who complain about crying babies on airplanes have no idea just how miserable it is to be on the parent's end of it). But that doesn't make it any less heartwarming.
Heather Gooch was flying Southwest Airlines with her 9 month-old son. Inevitably, the boy started getting the desire to move around and be, well, anywhere but in his mother's lap. This is that moment that all traveling parents dread, that we usually load our kids with Benadryl to avoid. But this time, flight attendant Anissa Charles came to the rescue.
And she didn't just provide extra biscotti cookies. While the parents were eating lunch, Anissa picked up the child and carried him up and down the aisles so they could eat in peace. After their flight, Heather reached out to Southwest on Facebook to convey her appreciation.
"Although this may not be a story that stands out from the rest, I wanted to thank her and let her know how appreciated she is," Heather said. "We so often hear about the negative things going on so I wanted to share this story of a someone who made my trip a little brighter."
Luckily, Heather's message went viral and eventually made it back to Anissa, who gave an equally heartwarming reply on Facebook:
""It was truly my pleasure and he made MY day!! I needed him more than he wanted me to hang out with! Lol I don't mind being used by the babies."
Do you feel that strange sensation in your chest right now? That's the feeling of your cold heart melting, coming to the realization that for every misbehaving flight attendant out there who makes flying unpleasant, there is at least one more awesome one that goes above and beyond.
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