Tyranny of the Sky Waitresses
So, we’re in Minnesota for a wedding. Since we live in the DC suburbs and the wife and I need to be back at work Monday, that means flying and enduring the depredations of airport security and being herded about a jetliner like cattle.
While we’re not such frequent fliers that we’re awaiting our meeting with legendary captain Maynard Finch, we nonetheless fly quite a bit. Katie, our 17-month-old, has at least twenty takeoffs and landings under her belt.
Depending on what we’re doing once we land and what makes most sense economically, we either get three coach seats and have her in a car seat or get two First Class seats and share lap duty. Yesterday, we did the latter.
As we usually do when we don’t have a car seat, Kim strapped Katie into her Ergo front carrier, which not only secures her very nicely but is comfortable for mother and child. But, unlike every other time we’ve done this, the Sky Waiter comes over and tells us we can’t do it because the carrier isn’t FAA approved. We note that we’ve flown with her like that countless times, including two weeks before, on the same airliner and nobody has ever had a problem. He responds that it’s “imperative” that we obey all direction from “flight crew.”
I suppressed my natural urge to tell him that he’s not “flight crew” but a god-damned waiter and we complied with the stupid instruction, subjecting our child to unnecessary risk and discomfort because, well, there’s not really any good alternative at that point.
The point of this post isn’t to complain about a surly Sky Waiter, although I did find his manner unnecessarily insulting and officious. I’m confident that, in his mind, he was just doing his job to the best of his ability. And, hell, for all I know, he might well be right on what the FAA regulations are and all the other Sky Waiters and Waitresses who’d let us fly Katie in her carrier were the ones in error.
My problem with all this isn’t really about the Sky Waiter at all but rather with the outrageousness of the post-9/11 notion that airline passengers must submit like sheep to the whims of the waitstaff.
First, I’ve got a hell of a lot more information as to what will make my daughter safe and comfortable than they do.
Second, my wife and I, not the waitstaff, are the ones who have to live with the consequences that befall our daughter.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, we’ve reversed the presumptions of a free society with all this. Rather than prohibiting things known to be dangerous to the passengers and crew, we instead have a “list of approved electronic devices” and a list of approved equipment that we may use. If it hasn’t specifically been approved — and, of course, the incentives for bureaucracies are not to take the risk of giving their blessing to anything, since that puts the burden on them — it’s prohibited. It’s absurd and outrageous.
And, no, this isn’t an overreaction to a bad experience but rather a longstanding grievance that’s become somewhat personalized. See, for example, “Mile High Couple Cited Under PATRIOT Act” (November 2006), “Waitresses as Air Marshals (May 2007)” or “Fly the Unfriendly Skies” (May 2008).