Sunday, June 29, 2008
We're American Airlines and by god you better speak American!
Don't even think about flying American if you don't speak "American".
Last Monday my family had to fly back to the states from Buenos Aires for a medical emergency with my wife. Don't worry. Everything is just fine now. After a big scare, it was discovered she just has a complication from an infection.
Our flight to Chicago was painful enough, but what made it especially bad was the horrible and rude service everyone received in coach. Especially those that could not speak English.
It seems American's flight attendants are very proud of the English they speak and get highly unruly if you don't happen to speak it too. It doesn't matter that our flight happened to originate in say Buenos Aires where most passengers would normally speak Spanish and not English.
Nope. You better understand English on the flight. After all, you're going to America where they speak nothing but English—at least according to the flight attendants on our flight.
After 10 hours of surly service from the flight attendants, things came to a head at breakfast service. Five rows up form me, a well dressed Porteño couple in their late fifties were being served breakfast and coffee. The flight attendant repeatedly barked, "Sir would you like milk or sugar." However, they did not speak English and did not understand her.
The man tried to explain he could not understand English. The flight attendant would not take that as an excuse so she announced louder, "Sir, milk or sugar? Sir MILK or SUGAR!"
The man tried to talk back in Castellano, but this just annoyed the flight attendant more. "Sir, I don't understand you. Do you want MILK or SUGAR!", was the reply.
Finally she said something like. Sir, I am not required to speak Spanish. I speak English! Just tell me Milk or Sugar!
The man said something else and a flight attendant form my side of the plane told the other attendant to ignore him if he couldn't speak English.
In full disgust the attendant turned away and yelled for the whole plane to hear, "Well you better start speaking English mister, cause your about to be in America. And that is what we speak there."
I couldn't believe what I just heard. That was the rudest and most insensitive thing I have ever heard a flight attendant say. It instantly reinforced the stereotype of the rude arrogant American from the US.
At the beginning of the flight, I even made the faux pas of asking "Que cervezas tiene" to the hispanic looking flight attendant who barked back, "Sir what would you like to drink. I asked again in Spanish, and received a more stern reply, "Sir, what would you like to drink."
At the time I thought she was just pissed because she thought I assumed she (being hispanic) couldn't speak English—A common mistake I made on the North Side of Fort Worth when I was trying to practice my Spanish.
But no. These flight attendants were really put off at having to serve people that didn't speak the same language as them. They didn't even make an effort to use non-verbal clues to communicate. If they didn't understand them, tough!
It is episodes like this that give American (the company) the bad reputation they now have. But worse, it is this kind of arrogant treatment that gives all people from the States a black eye in the eyes of the world.
I am so truly sorry to any Spanish speaking passengers that happened to be on the flight to Chicago last Monday night. Please don't think the worlds worst flight attendants are indicative of all people from the US.
American Airlines, I'm done with you. You have sunk too low on this one. Our relationship is over for good. This is one former "Executive Platinum" million miler that will not fly one more mile with you.
Chau American Airlines!
What has your experience been on American flying back to the US? The same? Or was this an isolated incidence?