Just Fly the Jet and STFU.


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Marketing honcho says inflight announcements “degrade the premium experience for our valued frequent flyers.” So, he implores, you captains: minimize your use of the PA during the flight for their sakes.

But what about my sake? Me, nine years old, breathless as the ground falls away, can’t wait for the seatbelt sign to go off so I can bolt to the lav, flush the toilet and see it gape open to the  blue sky. Wide-eyed, with a tote bag of items I planned to throw out, letting them flutter to Earth as I sailed above.

Or the old folks from “back east,” as they liked to say — the woman traveling with a twine-tied cardboard box of tomato purée in 12 ounce cans “Because,” she confides with disdain, “you just can’t get good tomatoes out west.” She swears we’ll be flying over the Grand Canyon and vows to “get some snaps” when the captain announces it, to prove to her sister that she did.

What about the “not frequent flyers?” The kids who marvel at the God’s-eye view, who brought stuff to drop out the toilet hole to strew across the sky? Who may have a merit badge in map reading he’d like to show off to the stews if he could get maybe a little confirmation of where the hell we are from the cockpit.

And the fuzzy-chinned GI who says he drove this route with his parents as a kid, wants to see it again, think back on those days as he follows his military orders to Bumfuk-wherever, the shithole his duty (done on behalf of all, including the “valued frequent flyers”) muse play out for a few lonely years. Can the captain make a PA when we are in Utah? Just knowing he’s over home, even though bound far from home, is a comfort.

Somebody’s Uncle Charlie needs to see where John Wayne filmed “all the great ones.” Tucumcari, he says; there’s a fake fort nearby. He watched The Duke film a nighttime scene in broad daylight for a spaghetti western, he says, as a kid. Point that out, wouldja?

And the couple who need to know when we cross the Mississippi, for some secret reason that seems to matter a lot, though they won’t say exactly why.  We don’t want to miss that, they say, trying to pick out landmarks between cloud breaks. Somebody who mattered is buried nearby, let us know.

Is the “premium experience” more valuable than the salt-of-the-earth, blood and bone humanity that flies behind — not below, behind — the “premium” cabin? Does the self-importance of being unaware because you don’t care trump the one-up of an elderly sister over her older sister? Does the dancing below the Titanic’s decks disturb the quiet of the stick-up-the-ass aristocracy lounging on the Promenade?

I sure hope so.

“Nice view of Lake Powell and beyond that, Valley of the Gods.” Only takes a second or two, here and there; pardon the recurring suspension of the premium experience as the world turns, the sky burns furious scarlet at the ends of the earth as the day gathers the light and rushes west.

We’ll all come back down to Earth, premium or no, soon enough. Might as well enjoy the view while it lasts. May not seem important to you, but it really is.

— Chris Manno is a captain for a major airline, tried to throw junk out of an airliner’s toilet hole long ago, still marvels at the view from eight miles up.

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19 Responses to “Just Fly the Jet and STFU.”

  1. John Stanbery Says:

    I personally like the announcements. It is one opportunity for the voice to reassure the cabin contents “I am the Captain and I will do my best to get you there safely.” So quit complaining about 2 minutes late because the checklist needed a confirm that this switch is switched and this match is latched. And yes as Captain I do have a few hours in this seat and several hours beyond. Sit back relax and enjoy the flight!

  2. Cedarglen Says:

    Thank you for yet another good one. That PR or marketing fellow has he head in the wrong place and it must be stuck. For one, I can hear or reject your announcements and the do NOT bother me in the slightest. Every pax load is a new group and most are having fun. You’ve been up there long enough to know what folks want – and do not want to hear. Your airplane and flight, so do it your way. That PR fellow may need a little grease, but I’d enjoy one of your flights almost any day. I want to be informed and if passing over the Grand Canyon is part of our route, I’d like to know. If grandma comes back to your airplane, it will be because you kept her happy and well informed not because she is locked into some frequent flyer program. Do your thing and move on…
    -Cg

  3. peggywillenberg Says:

    Please keep making those announcements! I remember when I thought I could trough things out the toilet hole, too.

  4. Lego Spaceman Says:

    I’m glad that I’m not the only one who thought that an airline lav worked the same as on a train.

    I’m 30 years older but I still think it would he hilarious to air drop a whole bucket full of little green army men on Indiana.

  5. Randy Sohn Says:

    Likewise – to all!

  6. traingeek Says:

    I’m happy to hear from the flight deck. The information the pilots provide is interesting and appreciated.

    What drives me crazy as a frequent flier is the very long flight attendant broadcasts. I understand they need to be done but I’d appreciate it if they were done at a brisk pace. 🙂

  7. Your marketing guy is an idiot. (And I say this as a fellow marketer). It’s nice to know what we are seeing, how the smooth the flight is, and – if it’s super bumpy – that you sound calm enough that I don’t feel like we’re going to crash at any moment.

  8. mosingal Says:

    I like the announcements, but it’d sure be nice if the FAs told the Captain whether or not the volume’s right. I’ve heard plenty which come across as “mumble, mumble [machinery noise] mumble”. For about half of them, NYC subway announcements are more discernable.

  9. I’m in the annoyed by announcements category. They are very intrusive if you are trying to sleep as the volume levels are high. During daylight domestic shorter flights it isn’t that big a deal.

    The worst are when you are on international flights. The inflight entertainment stops, the audio blasts in your ears, eventually whatever triviality it was (eg duty free now on sale) is comprehensively talked about, and things go back to normal. Until a few seconds later where the whole rigmarole is repeated in another language. And if you are really unlucky, you get to hear yet another.

    • Pamela Booth Says:

      The WORST is their trying to sell their branded credit cards…the flight attendants get a cut if they push it on you and it is SO intrusive listening to this prattle.

      • Agreed–it’s worse than the marketing spiel you get while on hold because there’s no escape–very tiresome, irritating. We noticed the same thing on our last cruise: about half of the shipboard morning announcements were marketing crap. No escape, no peace and quiet till they decide to stop.

        I think most crews hate the credit card stuff so I don’t hear them making that PA much.

  10. While I agree that the marketing weenie is an idiot, equating folks who travel in the premium cabin to “stick-up-the-ass aristocracy” is a slap in the face to the business travelers who make your livelihood possible.

    Are some of them entitled whiners?

    Sure.

    Does everyone (or even most) who travels in the premium cabin fit that mold?

    Absolutely not.

    Frankly, such contempt from the flight deck for any passenger that they’re carrying gives me serious pause regarding travel on American.

    • Ah, here we go: “we make your livelihood possible.” And “serious pause about travel on American” always gives way to the combo of ego and economics in “I have status” and $50 cheaper than the other guy.

      The only thing you left out is, “Do you know who I am?”

      • mosingal Says:

        “Do you know who I am?”

        The old story of the check-in agent going on the PA and asking everyone in the terminal if they knew him comes to mind.

  11. Phil Avery Says:

    Great article, Chris. Thanks!

  12. I’m ok with PA’s as long as they aren’t drawn out or extremely frequent. If I’m stuck in the middle seat in the back of a 777 then I would like to watch a movie to pass the time without it getting paused by PA’s and not hear about certain views out the window I can’t get a glimpse out of. The J class tablets are nice on the 767’s since they aren’t hooked up with the IFE system and PA’s cannot pause them however that can create a problem in an emergency.

  13. Brian Klughardt Says:

    Keep giving the announcements as long as the PA system works properly. Too many times the message from the flight deck is inaudible. I was that kid too. still am. Private Pilot for over 40 years. Still in awe whether it’s me flying or somebody else. Nothing beats the view. God makes good stuff.

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