Travel delays; a flight attendant perspective.

November 06, 2022

I’ve seen many articles, news stories, and social media posts about travel delays many are enduring since the rebound of the travel industry post-Covid.  However, having been a flight attendant and still having friends that are flight attendants, I find it essential to add another perspective to travel delay realities.

Although pilots can indeed fly airplanes without flight attendants, they cannot fly with passengers without flight attendants on board.  In truth, passengers cannot even board an aircraft without a designated minimum crew of flight attendants onboard.  As a flight attendant and passenger, I have been at boarding gates and heard passengers being advised of delays due to inbound flight crews.  Understandably, passengers are upset when the flight attendants arrive.  While this may be true in many cases, flight attendants cannot board an airplane without being told to do so by management.  It is the airline management’s responsibility to ensure that flight attendants are in a position to ensure a smooth operation without delays caused by flight attendants.

Flight attendants are also affected by flight delays.  In normal operations, a flight lands, and there is enough time for the flight attendants to get off the aircraft and make it to their next assigned aircraft on time.  The reality is that flight attendants must wait until all passengers have departed the plane before they, too, can leave the airplane.  If you have ever been in the back of an aircraft waiting to deplane, you know how long this process can take.  In addition, if you have been delayed and must get from one gate to another, you will no doubt remember how much time it can take.  Flight attendants, just as passengers do, must also entertain these realities.

In addition, flight delays often mean flight attendants aren’t getting paid.  Flight attendants are paid for flight time when the plane leaves the gate.  Time on the ground is also a nuisance for them.  A flight disruption usually means the airline can reassign the flight crew.  Imagine leaving home thinking you are going to California and ending up in New England.  You may have packed for warm weather, but now you must prepare for a cold climate.  Furthermore, you may not be home to your family as expected.  Kids, pets, and loved ones must be cared for, and your schedule is at the airline’s discretion and operational needs.

Flight attendants also need to get to work on time.  In comparison, the commute for many of you involves cars and trains.  Many flight attendants, known as commuters, also have no choice but to travel by plane for work as they may live in a completely different state or country.  A delay means they can’t get to work on time, which means another flight will be short a crewmember and further delayed or canceled.  Once again, that delayed flight attendant will not get paid as expected and has to readjust.

If this post has made at least one of you think differently about flight attendants and airline crews during a delay, it has served its purpose.  No delay is greeted with delight unless you are running late for your flight, which is to your benefit.  However, I hope you will now be kinder to your airline crewmembers as they also suffer consequences with flight delays.  Please drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts.


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