Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Don't blame the flight attendants...

...and don't tick them off, either!

flight attendantI don't know how many readers of Aircrew Buzz also are regular viewers of CNBC, the cable TV business news channel. Those who do not watch CNBC -- and in particular the morning show called Squawk on the Street -- might not be aware of the the small firestorm that erupted last Friday morning over some disparaging comments made on the air about flight attendants.

The commentators on Squawk on the Street were discussing the on-board 'a la carte' beverage sales program just launched by US Airways. Under the new plan, passengers must pay for all beverages served, including soft drinks, coffee and tea. Near the end of their discussion, CNBC's Mark Haines and David Faber engaged in what appeared to be unscripted banter that included condescending remarks about flight attendants.

Here is the link to the video clip of the offending broadcast on CNBC on Aug. 1, 2008.

Many flight attendants, including some from US Airways, did see and hear the broadcast. So did officials at the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the union that represents them. As one person from AFA told me, "Feathers were ruffled." Trust me when I say, that is an understatement!

The leadership of AFA's US Airways Master Executive Council (MEC) promptly circulated the link to the video clip, along with the email addresses of the CNBC reporters whose off-the-cuff comments had drawn the flight attendants' ire, and posted the information on the MEC website as well. Apparently the response generated over the past several days was significant: the firestorm grew as large numbers of flight attendants, from US Airways as well as other airlines, sent emails to CNBC in protest.

This morning CNBC ran another segment about this issue. To his credit, CNBC's David Faber apologized on the air for his comments last Friday. He also gave Mike Flores, President of AFA's US Airways MEC, an opportunity to explain the flight attendants' point of view about the airline's a la carte on-board sale of beverages, which they oppose. Faber and Flores also discussed flight attendants' general frustration with the current state of the airline industry, and in particular, the difficulties entailed in their constantly having to apologize to passengers for the reduction in services they have available to offer (among other things).

Here is the link to the video clip of the follow-up broadcast on CNBC on Aug. 5, 2008.

For the record, flight attendants at US Airways and America West are not in favor of the new a la carte on-board sale of beverages, and they have made their reasons clear in a press release issued by AFA the day before the program was launched. In the union's press release, the flight attendants state that they are "adamantly opposed to this unprecedented decision due to lack of proper planning and poor notification to passengers."

P.S. to CNBC - I noticed that, although the story discussed on the air was about US Airways, the title on the web page for the Aug. 1, 2008 video clip reads, "Another Great Airline Idea - United Airlines will charge for in-flight beverages, with CNBC's Erin Burnett & David Faber" (emphasis added by me). Please -- let's not give any ideas to UAL.