Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Get the Freak Off Your Phone!

Another unpublished, unedited probably old blog. This one is about a jerk lady on her phone trying to get to Fashion Week in NYC. Spoiler alert: Epic fail.
Pay Attention to the Announcements

It was a Friday night and the operation was actually running pretty smoothly.  I was working the gate for a New York flight and –surprise- the flight was delayed due to air traffic control.  La Guardia is one of the highest traffic airports, makes sense right, because it’s one of the most populated cities in the United States if not the world. 
When a flight is delayed due to air traffic control, it means that there is too much congestion coming into or going out of the affected airport.   Quite possibly, and in the case of LGA, traffic is at a standstill.  It is up to the Federal Aviation Administration, not the airline, to decide which planes get to leave when. 
Most passengers, especially the frequent fliers understand and expect this  when flying in and out of New York City….or rather, they should.   It would baffle me, though, how often people got irrational over an air traffic control delay.
On this particular Friday,  the only area having issues was LGA and surrounding airports..JFK, and Newark.   Again, that’s pretty normal, and when there’s no weather going on, it’s considered a pretty good night.  
The flight was only 30 minutes delayed, and I had been making announcements for the past 45 minutes at the gate.  The flight had been due to leave at 5:30, but had been pushed back to  6pm due to the previously mentioned ATC delay.   All of the other New York flights from that point on were delayed as well, including the other carriers in our airport.
The New York flights are usually full, if not oversold.  If one of them cancels, it throws the entire operation into a tailspin and a calm night turns into complete meltdown the instant the cancellation is announced.  This night was no exception.
I couldn’t believe the flight wasn’t oversold. It was just before Fashion Week in New York City.   Fashion enthusiasts and industry heavy-hitters alike will flock from all over the world to attend this event. 
It was approximately 5:45pm and I was making the following announcement:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I apologize for the delay, but the Air Traffic Control department has not updated our departure time.  The board says 6pm, but that is not possible due to the time it would take for me to board the aircraft.  Very simply put, we would need to begin boarding right now to make that possible.  The captain will not allow us to board until the ground stop is lifted so please rest assured I will make another announcement as soon as we get an update. Thank you for your patience. “
As I was setting the microphone back into its cradle, I could see out of the corner of my eye someone charging toward me like a freight train.  She was 6 feet tall and her beautiful face was twisted into a sneer.  She was angrily and loudly having a conversation on her crystal-encrusted BlackBerry.  As she approached the counter, I took a deep breath and waited for impact.
She approached the counter, still spewing verbal venom into the speaker of her PDA. I made eye contact with her, and she switched the phone to speaker.  I could still hear  the person on the other end finishing a sentence.  It sounded like squawking.  She didn’t even tell them to hold on, she just put it down and let them continue.
“How can I help you?” I asked
She glared at me for about two seconds, glared at the departure screen that read 6pm, and then made a dramatic show out of checking her watch. 
“Yes, as a matter of fact, you can help me. You can tell me why the f*** this plane isn’t in the air yet. I don’t have time to be reminding you airline people to do your job so that I can f***ing do mine.”  She spat the words in such a hasty string that I had to back it up and replay it in my head.  It was hard to sort out what she was saying amidst the F bomb and her friend still squawking away unaware she was being ignored. 
When someone approaches me and one of the first things out of their mouth is the F bomb, I immediately bristle and have no desire to help them what-so-ever.   I have to coach myself into responding diplomatically and tactfully.  That process takes about 3 seconds, which I think is pretty impressive.
Evidently, she didn’t think so. Before I had a chance to open my mouth, she began slapping the counter with her palm, the light bouncing off the crystals on her long,  menacing but beautiful  nails.
“Excuse-ay Moi.  Do you Speaky the English?!  I’m talking to you!” she screeched.
The squawking on the phone stopped.  A confused “huh?” came from the other end.
“I’m not talking to you-hold on!” she snapped, and then set the phone, still connected down. The person started asking her what was going on and going “Hello….hello..?” 
My body flushed with hot blood as I reminded myself that everyone travels for a reason and hers must be important.  She must be under extreme stress. 
“Ma’am,  would you like to finish your phone conversation so that I can help you or at least take it off speaker? “  I asked very calmly.  It was a reasonable question and there were more people lining up to ask questions.
“No the hell you can’t” she said matter of factly.  “I want to know why this plane is late.”
She was breathtakingly beautiful, and it was hard to hear such horrible talk coming out of her perfect mouth.  She had to be a model, it made sense because it was fashion week.  Watching her talk like that would be like how I imagine I would react if I saw a unicorn at the zoo with a farting problem.  She was that abnormally gorgeous. It didn’t make sense.
“It’s an air traffic delay, New York isn’t authorizing any inbound flights until further notice.”  I explained. 
“When the hell were you going to say something about it? Or were you just going to let us sit here like assholes?” she bellowed, dramatically cocking her head and putting her hands on her hips.
“Ma’am, I just made an announcement right before you came over on the PA system”. I explained, trying not to be jealous of her flawless skin. I imagine witches to be pockmarked and deformed.  She  was fascinating and confusing. 
“Well, I didn’t hear it.” She said defiantly
“You were on the phone.” I pointed out.
“OH HELL NO!” She bellowed, turning around to see if anyone was looking.  They were. 
She turned back around and flung her ticket at me. 
I apologized for the delay and asked her if there was anything else I could do for her, I assured her that I would make another announcement when the FAA contacts us and that was all the information I had.  It was the truth. 
She rolled her eyes and picked up her phone and said loudly “I’m about through with these f***ups at this airline.”  The person on the other end laughed and said “yeah, they’re all f***ups there, I hate that airline.”
Awesome.  The lady behind her had a toddler, and today that toddler picked up a new word: F***up.
I looked past the tall girl, and made sympathetic  eye contact with the irritated mother.  Everyone in ear shot was leaning forward to hear what this crazy woman had to say.  It’s always like that when someone goes irate.
The lady put her phone down again and pushed her ticket towards me. 
“I want to be booked on another airline.” 
Every airline flying to NYC was on the same delay.  Clearly she wasn’t understanding. Even if I broke a company rule about sending passengers to another airline when it wasn’t necessary, she’d still be sitting in the same airport, in the same situation. 
Fortunately, another coworker had showed up and was communicating with the tower, crew, and keeping the line moving while I worked with this passenger.  I took her ticket and pulled up her reservation.
Her name was Patience.  I can’t tell you  her last name because then I’d have to change the whole thing but I swear on my favorite pair of heels that is what her ticket said.  Let’s just say her last name was Doe.
I told her to hang on one second and I’d take a look in her reservation.  I had no intention of switching her ticket, but it gave me a few minutes to collect my thoughts and learn more about her. Usually this period of silence will help calm down the passenger as well.
Patience Doe.  22 Years old, on a ticket purchased from CheapFrickinTix.com.  Heavily restricted bargain fare, she had paid 165.56 for her round trip.  Holy crap,I thought, that is a cheap frickin ticket. I made note of the website so I could check it out later. 
The email address on file was PatienceHottieBabe21@gmail.com . Her emergency contact was listed as her mother, and she had flown in today from Texas.   She had missed her first flight because she was late to the airport and the notes in the record from the other agents read like this:
Hmm….well, looks like she’s had quite a day.  Anyone can miss a flight, but the remarks in there told me that she was just as bitchy in Texas as she was being here in the connecting city of Harlot, NC. 
That’s right people.  We rat you out in your own record.  That way you can’t be a complete lunatic to one person and then start all over with another.  
So, I take a deep breath and look sweet Patience in the eye and inform her there is nothing I can do and she’ll have to wait.  She starts smacking the counter again. 
My coworker grabs me and says, “The ATC delay is temporarily lifted, if we board it NOW, you can get Miss Crazy on the plane and out of here and we can get coffee before the next flight. If we can’t board it in under 20 min, it might be delayed again because the landing spots are in high demand—they’ll skip us and move on.”
I grabbed the microphone and made the announcement that we were ready to board.  Passengers started to line up and my coworker started tearing tickets.   I left Patience at the counter to help an elderly lady into a wheelchair in preparation to board the aircraft.
Patience’s parents were overambitious when they named their daughter.  This girl followed me to the wheelchair , her seven-inch stilettos clack-clack-clacking on the linoleum floor as she stomped. 
I wondered what in the world a girl that tall would need stilettos for?  She looked like praying mantis now that I had full view .  She interrupted my thoughts with her shrill, now whiny voice.
“Excuse me, we weren’t finished. When are we boarding?” she demanded
The lady, who was about to get into the wheelchair, looked at her in disdain.  I could feel my anger bubbling up inside of me again.  I could not continue to go back and forth with this person.  Not only was she not listening, she was now interfering to the point that if I gave her any more attention she could potentially cause the flight to delay later or even cancel.  The FAA do not joke around when they say “GO.”  They open traffic slots by reducing traffic…one of the ways to do that is to cancel a handful.  I hadn’t had coffee in like three hours and I felt twitchy. This plane had to leave. For everyone’s convenience and my personal sanity, that plane needed to go.
It was then that the lady in the wheelchair surprised me.
“We can start boarding as soon as you shut your trap and let these nice ladies work.” She hissed. 
Patience had no problem verbally abusing airline employees, but for some unapparent reason, she stood down to the lady in the wheelchair.  She rolled her eyes and walked away from the counter.  I pushed the wheelchair down the jet bridge in disbelief.
As we rolled towards the jet bridge, I thanked the lady for standing up for us.  She very cheerfully said that she wouldn’t take my job “for a million dollars. Not even for a go at George Clooney.”
I laughed, and helped her stand up once we got to the aircraft door, handed the flight attendant , Kylie, her tote bag and thanked her again.  It is spunky passengers like her that can make a hellish flight seem more tolerable.  The one kind person, is the proverbial needle in the haystack that resets your frame of mind and can calm the storm of expletives that run through my head when I have to deal with someone like Patience Doe.
“This is Kylie, Kylie, this is Mrs. Dawe” I said peering at the sweet l ady’s boarding stub.  She’s in  the bulkhead window,  and she’s a sweetheart so take care of her!”
Kylie nodded and whispered for me to wait a second while she got Mrs. Dawe settled.  The captain peeked his head around the corner from the cockpit and said we could take 30 minutes because the next flight to LGA, the next flight of the night was the one up for cancellation, our spot was safe.
I felt bad for the people on the next flight, but I was relieved that it wasn’t my flight to work.  
A few seconds later, Kylie came back with another flight attendant, Fitz, and they huddled me out as close to the door as possible.
They wanted to know what the situation was with Miss Doe. They had seen her stirring things up when my coworker had checked her in. 
Yes, we talk about you if you’re acting like a fool. The flight crew keeps their eyes peeled for possibly drunk or dangerous people, and they also love good gossip.
Fitz rolled his eyes.
“Another one of those cocky girls. I loved Fashion Week until I had to work LGA two days right in the middle of it. Now I dread it and try to trade trips as fast as possible.”  He rolled his eyes and poked Kylie “I only agreed to this trip because you and Bethy are workin’, you so owe me bitches.”
Kylie laughed and pulled Fitz back into the door.  “Allright, bring the rest of them on.”
I nodded and walked back up the jet bridge, pushing the door open and locking it in position.
There was no sign of Patience Doe as we pulled ticket after ticket.  We had the plane fully boarded within fifteen minutes of starting, and she still hadn’t shown up.  We had the airport do an all-over page. We paged her on our area PA over and over. 
I couldn’t help but smirk at the idea that she was about to miss her flight.  Then I realized that by missing her flight, she’d be stuck with us in Harlot longer, so  I got more aggressive with my paging.
I pulled up the next flight to New York. It had been canceled after all, the Captain was right! She really was stuck.  We had a standby list a mile long from people who had either made their way over from the other gate, or had missed the earlier flight.  We could not continue to page her, we were told to shut the door as soon as possible.
We ended up filling the seat with a standby passenger. Just as we were tagging that passenger’s bag, I heard a loud, clack-clack-clack-clack and looked up.  Patience was running in her stilettos down the hall.
I looked at my coworker.  She nodded. 
I told my standby passenger. “You got her seat. You need to make it to the door before she gets to the counter to make this flight.”
He looked back at me “No problem, lady, thanks!” and jogged over to my coworker who tore his ticket, snatched the final manifest off the printer and pulled the door shut.
About 30 seconds later, Patience arrived at the counter, flung her stilettos on top of it and told me I needed to open the door.
“The flight is closed, Miss Doe.”  I said gently
“BULLSHIT!” she yelled.” I see the plane right there.”
My coworker was pulling the bridge away, the door had been closed. 
Safe! I thought. 
There was no way I was going to take the seat away from someone who patiently waited while someone who had a seat and a very inappropriate sense of entitlement acted so horribly.  I didn’t want to be stuck with her, but I didn’t want her to get her way.  I was glad she missed the flight. Once the door on the actual plane is shut, it’s up to the crew to open it again and 95% of the time they won’t unless it’s a situation on board. 
“Miss Doe, the plane has departed. The door is shut. I will put you on the next available flight.”
The next available flight for Miss Doe was not until two days later. She tried everything she could to escalate her situation to a manager, but after I added my remarks to the record, there was no way she was going to get any compensation. Even if there were compensation for Air Traffic Delays (which there isn’t since it’s out of the airline’s control) no one was going to bend a rule in her favor.
She ended up flying standby all day long the next day, getting a seat on the 9pm flight, only to be denied boarding because she spent the whole day in the bar and reeked of alcohol. 



At July 27, 2011 at 8:48 AM , Blogger Danny Sivar said...

HAHAHAH.... Precious!!

I always love watching these events unfold in the airport.

I am (surprisingly) very laid back and calm while traveling. I make sure I get to the airport early, make sure all my ducks are in a row, and relax (after all, its better than being in an office AND/OR I AM on vacation!!! )). I also book my flight the DAY before I need to be somewhere!!!

Anyhow.. this day and age people feel the need to make a scene... if you do that you'll get results quicker... AND HONESTLY its sometimes true. I always try to handle situations calmly and "Professionally" but there have been times you're just pushed to the back burner, and then the irate crazy customers gets what they want. Thats hard to swallow. HOWEVER as mad as I EVER am.. I usually keep my dirty mouth PG for surrounding peoples' sake and for that person's sake. Besides... its just tacky!


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