Is customer service extinct?

Over summer break, I flew United from India back to home. I was appalled at how the United flight attendants treated the Indians on board. I had just sat down in my seat when I heard a flight attendant command in a very sharp tone, “SIT! I SAID SIT. This is an international flight. SIT!” I of course turned to look and saw a woman clad in a sari. From what I could gather (mind you, I could be wrong but seriously doubt it), all the overhead bins were full and this woman didn’t know where to put her carry-on luggage. An announcement had been made earlier that all overhead bins were full and carry-on luggage had to be checked in. My guess is this woman didn’t understand that announcement.

I settled into my seat and started to watch a movie once we were airborne. I noticed that an elderly couple sat in front of me. The woman didn’t speak English and had a hearing aid. She would try to get the attendant’s attention by touching her hand or elbow. The attendant got mad and snapped at her that she could see the lady and that she needed to wait patiently. I was shocked at how rude the flight attendant was to this poor woman.

When my son requested a beverage, the flight attendant told him, “Thank you for having manners.” I also overheard this attendant say, “I am getting a kick out of India.” The other flight attendant snickered in response.


As a flight attendant, I am sure these people come across passengers from many countries, many ethnicities, religions and cultures. What is manners in one culture may not be considered manners in another. I guess manners in United’s dictionary does not mean being kind, patient and tolerant.

These Indian passengers at least have an excuse. Many of them are probably traveling for the first time to visit their families in Americia. A lot of them, especially the older folks may not speak English and have no exposure to American culture.

But what is your excuse, United?


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