The captain immediately caught my attention as soon as his voice started to broadcast over the PA system.
Like everyone else seated around me, I was interested to hear what he had to say.
“Ladies and gentlemen, due to the inclement weather, I’m afraid we’re going to have to cancel today’s trip.”
A collective groan filled the area.
The captain continued to explain that the weather conditions just wouldn’t permit safe operations. A backup plan was being formulated and he would relay information as soon as it was available to him. He thanked us all for our patience and understanding. He closed by reiterating his sincere apologies for the disappointment he assumed we were all feeling.
When he concluded, the people around me broke into chatter.
I was extremely curious about their reactions, so I started eavesdropping on several conversations.
Everyone sounded disappointed, but not annoyed.
There were no discussions about poor customer service.
Not one person accused the captain of lying.
I didn’t hear any mention of the captain intentionally throwing a wrench in the gears to participate in some secretive union job action.
The threat of legal action was never uttered.
From what I heard around me, not one person articulated anything that challenged the captain’s expertise. Everyone believed every word he said.
Does that sound unusual?
For a flight full of passengers, the buzz I described definitely wouldn’t be the norm.
However, I was on a very large ship cruising around the Caribbean with my family.
The captain making that announcement was the skipper of the ship and everyone around me was enjoying breakfast in the dining area. We were anchored just outside the cruise line’s private island and the seas were too rough to board passengers onto the tenders to transport them to shore. For safety reasons, the captain decided to cancel that port of call and continue on to Key West, FL.
I was disappointed for my kids, but I was equally intrigued by the reaction of the masses.
Sitting there eating my first of five meals that day, I realized that people still respect ship captains.
I hope that since you’re reading a pilot blog, you still hold some respect for the job we safely accomplish day after day, year after year. I’m referring to the loss of respect of people who just don’t understand the aviation environment.
Last week, I had one of those flights from hell. The aircraft arrived two hours late. After boarding and taxiing to the runway, a light illuminated forcing us back to the gate for a lengthy MEL procedure. As the mechanics completed the paperwork, two flight attendants went illegal and needed to be replaced. The delay was lengthened further waiting for a fuel truck.
I know it was frustrating for the passengers and we did our best to keep them in the loop.
Apparently, it wasn’t good enough for some.
One of the flight attendants came up to the flight deck while the airplane was being fueled. She said that one of the passengers wanted to know “when those damn pilots were going to give me some factual information?” If the captain hadn’t been right in the middle of frying bigger fish, that passenger may not have joined us for the rest of the evening.
When we finally arrived at our destination, I did a quick Twitter search and found two other passengers complaining about our flight.
The first merely mentioned her frustration and lack of customer service provided by my airline. The tweets were aeronautically uneducated in nature, but I understood why she was upset.
The second tweeter was determined that the flight delay was some sort of big conspiracy. The pilots, mechanics, flight attendants and fueler were on a mission to ensure that his flight was four hours late. Basically, all we told this man were lies, lies and more lies.
(If it wouldn’t have cost me my job, I would have loved to reply directly to the tweets and let him know one of the pilots actually read them.)
So, while the ship captain is still very well respected, many have lowered the airline pilot to a social punching bag.
Although a miniscule fraction of the population is qualified to pilot a cruise ship, most understand the basics of boating. The vessel floats on the water and is pushed along at slow speeds. When the seas rise, the ship rocks. When it gets rough, everyone knows. If the captain says it’s too rough to board a tender, everyone nods in agreement.
In aviation, we deal with so many more variables that people either cannot see or simply don’t understand.
The challenging reaction is to seek out the knowledge to learn more about the system and the problems we face on a daily basis.
The easy reaction is to start spewing accusations of lies and conspiracies.
Captain, thanks for making the decision to keep my family safe.
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