Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Red State or Blue State, in Which State are YOU?

Today I'm all about my Blue State. JetBlue, that is. That's because yesterday I flew JetBlue from ORD to JFK and enjoyed every on-time, leather seated, biscotti crunching moment of it. Well, aside from three fully suited up Red State employees of Delta Airlines (heretofore referred to as RED State folks because of Delta's Red Logo) who sat behind me: one pilot and two female flight attendants.


*Why have the Delta Airlines folks crossed over?

*Why are they talking so loudly?

*Why am I ease dropping?

QUICK ANSWER: Because the flight attendants asked the pilot where he was going, and he said Amsterdam, which is where I'm flying today. However, I'm flying OpenSkies. Nonetheless, it seemed so coincidental that I immediately bonded with them. I kept this information to myself.

*Why, after the pilot asked them about their routes, is he asking them if they serve pizzas on their flights? Is he craving pizza?

For now, let's get out of my head and into their conversation, which became so intriguing--and disturbing--that I started taking notes. (Hey, I'm a trained journalist! Step AWAY from my PEN!)

The pizza questions started innocently enough, although curiously enough, then quickly morphed into a surreal grilling . These are the types of questions he threw at them.

*Do you serve pizza?

*How does it come onto the plane? (exactly what kind of packaging)

*How do you cook them on the plane?

*What, exactly, do the trays look like?

*Do you put the trays right into the oven?

Seemed there were two kinds of trays: some with rails on the sides and some with rails on the sides and backs. (I might have this slightly incorrect, but there were two types.) The flight attendants, who were now as curious as me, told him that one type of tray was used in one aircraft, and the other in another. (Get that?) "Seven fives," was often mentioned as one of the "types" of plane. My apologies: I don't speak airline speak.


*Who checks if you have the right type of trays on the right plane?

*Is checking that a regular part of your pre-flight?

ANSWER FROM THE FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: "The Bs" check the food." This answer was obviously coming from the As, who knew everything, but who were clearly becoming increasing weirded out by the pilot's obsession with the pizzas and pizza trays (HEL-LO! You're supposed to be FLYING!), same as me.

SIDE NOTE: Also, even though it was now only 10 AM, I was crazy for pizza.

BACK IN MY HEAD: Hm. If there's going to be blame at the end of this odd encounter, BLAME IT ON THE Bs! Way to cover yourselves, ladies!

Since I don't speak their language, I'm assuming The Bs is the second string flight attendants, whatever that means. Maybe those who have to work with coach folks like me?

Many more specific technical Q&As followed, including the exact temperatures of the ovens. The pilot's tone of voice was becoming more and more tense and his questions more accusatory--especially since one of the flight attendants offered that she'd recently received an e-mail talking about the trays and this exact distinction between aircraft and trays, and how critical it was that the right tray gets into the right plane.

*What did you do about that e-mail? (The pilot's tone shifted here. He was a four-star General and they were in the hot seat.)

ANSWER: "I remembered it, but also realized that The Bs are responsible for checking those things, and that CATERING is responsible for putting the right trays filled with those pizzas that need to be cooked onto the correct planes." (Obviously, these aren't direct quotes, but they are certainly the gist of them.)

BACK IN MY HEAD: A-HAH! CATERING did it! And, what on earth is he getting at? Are we dealing with an obsessive compulsive pilot here?


*If you noticed that the wrong type of rack was in the plane, what would you do?"

RESPONSE: "The problem is, we can't really see them that well, especially once they're in there."

Pause ... Then one of the flight attendants finally asked, "Have you had some type of problem with the pizzas?"


THE BOMB FROM THE PILOT: "Yes. All the boxes of pizza caught on fire during one of my recent flights. We got it under control, but it could have been much more disastrous."

A breathtaking and breath holding moment followed.

Then the pilot began instructing rather than asking. He started with a repeat of his last question. "If you noticed that the wrong type of rack was in the plane, what would you do? And, are you checking?"

*If there was an e-mail about this, he said, there must have been other problems. It seems there is something critical here to be dealt with. "So, if you noticed the wrong tray was on your plane, what would you do?" (He did not wait for an answer.) "You should come to the pilot and say, 'We're going nowhere. We are at risk: the pizzas are in the wrong trays.'"


*Did you have to land when you had the fire? ("No. We got the fire under control. But it could have been much worse.")

The pilot again put them through the entire drill about who looked for what, checked what, whose responsibility it was, and he wondered if CATERING got that memo. There was agreement by ALL that it was visually difficult to detect if the right trays were in the right planes.


But one thing was clear: he was holding them entirely responsible to check what they were supposed to check; he was doing all he could to present the gravity of the situation; he wasn't happy with an email dealing with an issue that should rather be fixed (i.e., quit having cardboard or whatever involved, that, given the wrong tray in the wrong airplane, could cause a fire); he never--EVER--wanted to have it happen again. His level of frustration and concern with process and procedure spoke volumes. I hope all three of them called their superiors and chimed in about this safety risk.

BACK IN MY HEAD (scary, ey?): There is a bigger issue here: Red State or Blue State, Green State or Pink State, how about we stop beating around the bush, asking backhanded questions and pointing fingers. How about together, we face things head on, ask the hard questions, don't stop asking them until we get to the core of them, then work together to resolve them.

AND NOW, BACK TO MY BLUE STATE: This morning I received an email from JetBlue asking me to fill out a questionnaire about how they did with my flight yesterday. Seriously, I want to thank them for not serving pizza, something I never thought I'd hear myself say.

Also, I'm thinking all airlines should be sending this type of follow-up email to their pilots and flight attendants. And that corporate should be reading their responses, then acting on them.

If you know anybody who has the power to look into this type of issue, no matter WHAT airline, please send them this link.

Thank you, Blues, Reds, Greens and Pinks. For the good of the entire world, may we all play nicely together.

1 comment:

Orlando Frasca, Rogers Insurance Services, Inc. said...

"seven fives" probably refers to the type of aircraft ( ie, the 757 series of planes)

Orlando Frasca