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Dear NAACP: Please Fight for All Passengers to Have Civil and Humane Treatment!

Photo of Mark and Stephanie Abrams about to board an Aer Lingus flight from Bradley International Airport to Dublin, Ireland.

Photo credit: Dru Abrams.

The NAACP has issued an advisory to its members regarding the nasty treatment of member passengers on US airlines citing racist roots for rude/abrupt/unkind treatment of minority passengers and ejection from flights.
To our NAACP friends: Don’t take it personally. They treat everybody that way!
The “friendly skies” is nothing more than a slogan of the past. Airline personnel and crew have it on their minds that they are prison officers and the pilot is the warden. Hospitality at airports and on planes, even civility, regrettably, is a thing of the past and if you state your complaint, no matter how politely explained and no matter how rational, you risk being removed from the flight. Only the crew is allowed to be rude and/or obnoxious! So, as much as I can’t refute the racial bias contention of the NAACP, I can tell you that they don’t have the market cornered on being abused by US carriers and their staff on the ground and in the air! I could write a thick volume on my experiences and things I’ve observed traveling by air that have happened to me and to people of all sizes, backgrounds and shades of the color spectrum including some very lily-white folks. I’d love to see the NAACP’s meeting with American Airlines result in better/proper/customer-service-oriented treatment of all passengers! Most airlines today see their function only as providing safe transportation. Oh for the days when flight attendants were charming, smiling, friendly and accommodating. But they’ll be the first to note that passengers of yore were nicer people. They may not be wrong on that score either as I have traveled with strangers who behave badly and don’t know how to deal with sharing space in an airplane!
BTW: even though they’ve had some goofy flight attendants do ridiculous things in flight, I’ll fly to any city JetBlue flies to, rent a car and drive where I need to go if JetBlue doesn’t fly all the way to where I need to go. . .like flying to Chicago and renting a car to drive the 80 miles to Milwaukee because JetBlue didn’t fly there and I wasn’t willing to subject myself to being in the care of those airlines that could have taken me non-stop! JetBlue is the closest you’re going to get to the good ol’ days of Eastern Airlines and Pan Am service which, even in coach class, was spectacular! When you meet anybody in the travel industry who is a pleasure to deal with, chances are they used to work for Eastern or Pan Am!
I pass my silk scarf to the NAACP to go into battle like Joanne of Arc and fight for better treatment for ALL of us because nobody is doing that! Bless your hearts and wishing you great success! Give ‘me Hell!

On another note, it is well known among international travelers that you’re not going to find out what ‘first class service’ means until you leave the US. It was always a source of amazement for first-time travelers to Europe, and especially to Asia, to learn what it means to be ‘well looked after.’ Since the invention of air mileage loyalty clubs and people getting upgraded into first class by using some frequent flier points or credit card loyalty points, there is no such thing as a ‘First Class Passenger.’ Passengers in the US have far too long been interested in free drinks and a wider seat and have not demanded the kind of service that accompanies those features in upper classes of service on international carriers. . . and when you don’t demand fine service the result is that you don’t get it!

The European first class passenger, now the business class passenger, for the most part, has a history of being elegant in dress and behavior. There is a correlation between the dilution of the quality of service in all cabins on an aircraft and disintegration of the demeanor and presentation of the passengers themselves, some of whom look like they’ve just come in from plowing the back 40 acres! When passengers have no respect for themselves, they often find little respect from those who are there to serve them.

In spite of that, the deck is stacked against the passenger from the minute you enter the airport today! Airports and air transportation is no longer about service to customers but about customers entering a zone in which their rights are vastly diminished to very few at all. Sad as it is, airports and airlines, in general, discriminate against all passengers in creating a prison-like atmosphere in the name of security.

I manage to get through the system holding on to my contention that airports are amusement parks for adult travelers, with a few who cater to children and families with wonderful places to play and inspire creativity. Watch for my next blog with rules to live by to enjoy air travel! One of them is choosing air carriers by their customer service friendliness and their safety record and not by who has the cheapest seat the day you want to travel! You know who I like to fly with! You can tell by my smile above!

--Gotta Fly Now!sm
Your Personal Travel Expert
Nationally syndiated radio show host
Stephanie Abrams

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