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Air Rage: Readers Speak Out

Dear Mr. Hewitt,

I am a fourteen year employee of a major airline. I have worked in reservations, almost all areas at a hub airport, and currently am a gate agent. In your recent article in the Independent Traveler about Air Rage, you stated:

"Airline employees consider themselves trained professionals - why is it that it seems far more likely that you get poor customer service from these pros than from a 17-year-old who sells you a pair of chinos at the Gap?"

I take extreme offense at this. I consider myself one of the agents that you mentioned that "takes the high road" and tries to extend excellent customer service at all times. I don't see how you can even compare the training and knowledge that an agent who has to control a departing flight, including intricate computer entries, 150 passengers, crews, meals, and assorted other issues that arise during the hour before departure...
This is an insult to the trained employees who stand at the gate and do the job to the best of their ability, regardless of the situation.

Since I am an employee, I am also a frequent traveler. Although I am an internal customer, I am still subjected to the same travails that paying customers are. While I can agree that airlines are not always forthcoming with information, I have never knowingly LIED to my passengers, nor have I been lied to. I have also not always been happy with a situation; I have been delayed, misconnected, canceled, lost my baggage and been bumped. I have seen excellent customer service and I have seen customer service skills that are an embarrassment to both the airline and the employee.

I agree that passengers should have rights. But I also know that I, as a front-line employee, should have rights also. I should not have to be subjected to verbal or physical abuse simply because the customer has a problem, be it airline or self-induced. You said "I do find that kindness and consideration is usually, if not always, returned on the airline front lines." I try to put this into action every day. If more passengers used this motto instead of "flipping out," I am sure there would be less rage on both sides of the counter.

I hope that someday you will be on one of my flights, and I can show you what Customer Service is supposed to be, even with delays, cancellations and lost baggage.

Sincerely,
Kerry Manning
Houston, Texas


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From TEDKILTS:
Your story was patronizing, to say the least. To OK for pax to be outraged was like giving the permission to act like hoodlums. The gate agents deal with hundreds of people a day... and all of them want top notch service, and, through no fault of their own, can't provide it, i.e. flight delays due to weather, pilots stuck in traffic, or mechanical delays. Passengers feel it is perfectly all right to vent on these under paid agents. I'm a mechanic, and on breaks I go up to the terminal. I see what these people are put through every day, and it ain't pretty. I'm not saying that every CSA (Customer Service Agent) is the pillar of decorum, but they are people trying to do their best, as we all are.

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This is the first time I have read your informational page. For the most part I agree with you. However, I am a reservations agent with a major airline and air rage does not only happen at the airport. It happens over the phone, too, with aggressive passengers who think I am someone they can verbally assault. I have been cursed at, called stupid, incompetent, etc., because the passenger couldn't get his/her way. This usually had to do with fare rules not being waived or a delayed/cancelled flight. When there's a "weather day" (storms, etc.), I dread going to work and come home feeling like I've been beaten up! Believe me, no one in the airline industry wants a canceled or delayed flight! The ramifications are mind boggling.

On an average day I handle 120-140 calls. Of this amount, at least 20% are disagreeable people. I always try to calm down an irate passenger and often times resolve their problem without having to resort to Customer Service. People are being told to always "ask for a supervisor." Well, most of the time the agent answering the call can handle the situation, and should do so. Unfortunately, there are programs on TV that foster the attitude that the passenger is always right and should 'demand" anything and everything. Let's be reasonable here. There are limitations to demands. I don't hear all of the travel gurus advising the leisure passenger that fares are lower now than they were 10 years ago, even adding in the cost of living increases! I agree that more communication is necessary at the airport, especially with delays, but when it's a weather day, please ask the general public to be a little understanding of the staff and the stress they are under to get everyone to their destinations.

Thanks for giving me this opportunity to air my side.
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