On Friday, May 25, my family and I endured the single worst flying experience of my life -- and I grew up overseas and have been flying internationally and domestically for almost 50 years. It wasn't so much the actual issue, it was the attitude of one cabin crew member in particular that escalated this to truly memorable proportions.
The flight was 816 from FLL to DCA, on which we reserved three exit row seats. My wife, who is recovering from breast cancer and also suffers from a connective tissue disorder, finds flying with the extra legroom greatly eases her discomfort. After waiting an extra hour or so for the flight, we boarded to find that the equipment had changed and our seats were no longer in the exit row. These things happen, of course -- we took it in stride, waited for the flight to *** and then quietly brought up the matter with a flight attendant. That's when things took a turn for the surreal.
It was clear from the start that he viewed our conversation as an argument he was determined to win, rather than an opportunity to help a customer solve a problem that was nobody's fault. I explained our situation and asked if there was anything he could do to make our flight more comfortable. He pointed out that there were other seats available on the plane, which was true but irrelevant as they were no different from the ones we were sitting in.
When I mentioned again that we had paid for exit row seats, he said, "if you want to sit in exit row seats, you can sit in the first exit row" -- that is, in seats that had no additional legroom and also didn't recline. When he made that same comment a few minutes later, I realized that he saw our dialog as a debate, or as a way to score points that he could later share with his fellow employees in a story in which he was the hero, teaching "that *** of a passenger" a lesson.
I asked if perhaps he could offer us complementary refreshments; he said no. When I asked again if there was anything he could do to make us comfortable, he said no. Clearly, saying no was the only part of our discussion he enjoyed. And that attitude is what makes air travel such an unpleasant experience for so many passengers today.
How differently we might have perceived things if he had simply said, "I'm sorry for your inconvenience and I wish I could be more helpful." Nothing would have changed, but at least I and my family wouldn't have come away feeling as if we were awful people who had the nerve to waste the time of someone we had obviously mistaken for a service professional.
As the flight attendant deplaned, I asked his name (I don't have great vision and had not been able to read his name tag). To add insult to injury, he then asked the gate agent for OUR names, locators and other personal information. Naturally, I asked for his last name, only to have him tell me, "that's none of your business."
It was the logical end to our exchange -- not only did he refuse to recognize that he had done anything wrong, but now he was the aggrieved party and I was the enemy.
This was our first experience with Spirit, and they've worked very hard to make it our last.
Product or Service Mentioned: Spirit Airlines Flight.