Am I imagining this, or was air travel once efficient, comfortable, and enjoyable? I can’t be sure now; it seems impossible. Of course, as bad as it is, things would be a lot better if basic standards of competence and professionalism were observed, or even attempted.
I just arrived at my hotel in Providence approximately 2 and a half hours after I was supposed to. The delay isn’t the issue; I’m used to that, and if there’s weather, there’s weather. (There was weather.) This trip, however was special.
- My flight took off from infamous Gate 35X, which is portal gate from which passengers board buses that take them to smallish jets scattered around the tarmac. It is always crowded, and you are tasked with listening for the announcement telling you to go down the stairs to the sub-gates and line up for your bus. That is more tricky than it sounds, because the area is pure cacophony: people talking, announcements from nearby gates, a recorded announcement on a loop telling you not to go down the stairs until you’re told, and as a special bonus, not one but three American gate employees making announcements in various heavily accented forms of pseudo-English, spoken at auctioneer speed. All three were intermittently incomprehensible; people were constantly turning to companions and asking, “What did she say?”
Look, many of my relatives spoke in Greek accents. I know learning English is difficult, and I don’t begrudge any (legal) immigrant the time to learn and master the language spoken here. However, if you can’t speak sufficiently clear English, it is unethical to take a job in which doing so is key part of the job. It is also incompetent for a company like American to hire people with impenetrable accents to communicate with their customers.
Why would they do that? Are there really not enough English-speakers to fill these jobs? Are the companies being woke? Are they afraid of lawsuits? Do they pay the barely-English speakers less? I’m willing to tolerate this foolishness at Taco Bell or McDonalds, when it’s one-on-one and I can say—and I do—“I can’t understand you. Please speak slowly and distinctly, and remember that your speaker sounds like it was made from a Remco kit by a 12-year-old in 1958.”
- As it happened, I didn’t hear the announcement for my flight, and ended up near the end of the line. We were loaded on a far too small bus; I haven’t been that crushed by standing bodies since my days riding the Red Line in Boston. What was supposed to be a 7 minute horrible ride turned into an ordeal when the bus inexplicably stopped just short of our plane, and didn’t move for about a half an hour. It got so hot inside the bus that they opened the doors. No one told us a thing. Had the bus broken down? Was there a problem with the plane? In a situation like that, the employees have an obligation to communicate. How long will this last? What’s going on? Hello? Somebody? Nothing.
Maybe neither the driver nor any of the men we saw running around in yellow vests outside could speak English either.
I said to a woman sitting under my arm, “I imagine Hell might be like this: waiting for eternity in an over-heated bus to get on a plane that never takes off.” I think there was a “Twilight Zone” episode like that.
- They suddenly let us off the bus to board the plane. We never learned why we had to wait. This was a small plane with only 13 rows, and I was in the last row, window side, in a non-reclining seat, adjacent to the bathroom. (At one point, the pilot used is, then left without closing the door. Charming.) We left the gate, stopped, and then sat for two hours on the tarmac, while the pilot repeatedly apologized, said there was a back-up, and said we would be on our way “in just a bit.”
Is the theory that saying it’s going to be a short wait when you know it isn’t is more comforting to the passengers than saying, “Folks, we’re going to be stuck here for quite a while…I have no idea when we’ll get into the air”? It’s an unethical theory, if so.
Truth, please. Facts.
- After about an hour, I noticed that my head and the back of my shirt were damp. Water was dripping on my head. I called the flight attendant and pointed out the dripping. “Oh, that’s condensation,” she said. Wait–I didn’t ask for an explanation of why I was getting wet. I don’t care why—I want to not be wet. Do something.
She didn’t do anything.
- Eventually we took off, and landed in Providence more than two hours late. I arrived at the Hotel, via an uneventful cab ride. I gave the driver a 50% tip out of gratitude, telling her that the trip was the first thing that had gone right since I left my home, more than four hours before. I got to the hotel, checked in to my supposedly upgraded sumptuous room, threw down my bags, lay down on the bed, pointed the remote at the large flat screen TV , and…nothing. The TV was broken.
The maintenance guy who reported to my room confirmed that, sure enough, a key piece of the mechanism was damaged. He worked on the TV for 45 minutes. Call me a stickler, but aren’t upper tier hotels like, say, just to pick one at random, an Omni, (actually any competently run hotel) supposed to thoroughly check out rooms before guests arrive?
Well, I’m here.
And tomorrow is another day.