Here is some insider information I've learned from my mother's wild stories about her flight attendant days.
1. Some people just aren't nice
Harsh reality, but it's true. To back things up a little, consider the circumstances. Traveling is stressful. It's a lot of work, and there are a ton of logistics that go into a single day. I understand that people are stressed, and so do the employees of the airlines. That's something they handle daily. With that said, the main feedback from flight attendants and airline employees is that some travelers lack manners, and don't even notice they lack them. Saying thank you, or please is something that goes a long way in someone's day, and we, as travelers should use those words more often with the employees who are helping us.
Often times, the most stressful moments of a travel day are when a flight is delayed or canceled. Sometimes this is the airline's doing, and sometimes it is the weather. Regardless, we, as travelers, should push ourselves to be a little more kind and understanding in these situations. The employees work to the best of their ability to accommodate everyone, and they can not control the weather. Simply approaching conversations with gate agents or ticketing agents with a smile, and mentioning "I'm sorry you have to deal with this" is so helpful in tough situations.
My parents used to tell me when I was little that if I wasn't polite to the waiter or waitress, they may spit in my food... I like to think it's the same situation here with the airlines. Really, these employees have access to your luggage, your on board beverages and food, and your seat. It's in your best interest to be kind, because you never know what they could do to you. Plus, it's just nice to be nice.
2. There's only so much they can do
It is SO important to understand who the person is you're working with or talking to. If they are a gate agent, flight attendant, ticketing agent or customer service rep they all have different abilities and there are many things that one person is able to do versus another. I find that it's best to ask if something is even possible before you ask for it. Granted, sometimes they may say it's not possible, but when you show that you're truly concerned and trying to weigh your options, they're usually really helpful.
One of my journeys out of San Diego on Southwest was a mid day flight flying to San Francisco. The gate agent was getting the podium ready for the boarding process and I struck up a conversation with him (I know, shocking) about his chargers pin (RIP San Diego Chargers). After talking with him for a minute he smiled and asked what boarding group I was in. I shared I was in the 'B' boarding group he quickly responded, "why don't you board with the A 1-30 group, you've been the first person to strike up a friendly conversation with me today." This was clutch because on Southwest you pick your own seat, and the earlier you board the more opportunity you have for an aisle seat close to the front of the plane (obvi my fave). The point is, being kind, and treating airline employees like human beings goes a long way. Plus, knowing that the gate agent can control who gets on the plane and when is super helpful too!
3. Being inconsiderate doesn't get you anywhere
This is a fact of life and applies to everything we do daily. It's nice to be nice (as BL always says) and sharing grace and kindness is contagious. Here is my story to prove it to you:
It was a Tuesday evening in Boston's Logan Airport. I was on a Delta flight headed to NYC and then on to San Diego. We boarded the plane, sat for 20 minutes, and then heard from the captain that we were suspended from Air Traffic Control for the next hour or so (meaning no one on the plane was about to make their connection in New York). The pilot mentioned that we were welcome to sit on the plane and wait, or we could get off, and board again in another 30 minutes. Knowing that I wouldn't make my connection in NY, I was one of the first off the plane to talk with the gate agent. Fortunately, I was 3rd in line at the gate desk - unfortunately, this was a flight with mainly international connections out of NY and people were NOT happy. It took the agents longer than expected to change passenger's itineraries and schedules - not to mention listening to these people yell at them about how annoyed they were with the airline.
When it was my turn to adjust my itinerary, I mentioned to the gentleman that I was flexible with departure time, but that I needed to be to San Diego by the next evening. I shared I didn't have any checked baggage, I had a place to stay for the night in Boston, and most importantly, I was sorry he had to deal with this, and he had a long road ahead of him with the people in line. He smiled and passed me a non stop ticket to San Diego the next morning and I was sitting in first class. He shared with me that he appreciated my kindness, and wanted to show me how much he appreciated the patience and understanding.
I'm telling you not only is it right to be nice, but it pays off as well. It's also good to have friends and families in many different cities so they can come pick you up, and house you after your flight gets canceled (thx Dan and Christina - ily).