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Alec Baldwin

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My Flying Lesson

Posted: 12/07/11 05:45 PM ET

First off, I would like to apologize to the other passengers onboard the American Airlines flight that I was thrown off of yesterday. It was never my intention to inconvenience anyone with my "issue" with a certain flight attendant.

I suppose a part of my frustration lay with the fact that I had flown American for over 20 years and was brand loyal, in the extreme. The ticketing agents and Admiral's Club staff have always been nothing but abundantly helpful to me, as I have flown hundreds of thousands of miles with the one carrier.

My confusion began when the flight, already a half hour behind schedule, boarded, the door closed, and we proceeded to sit at the gate for another fifteen minutes. I then did what I have nearly always done and that was to pull out my phone to complete any other messaging I had to do before take off. In nearly all other instances, the flight attendants seemed to be unbothered by and said nothing about such activity, by me or anyone else, until we actually were pulling away from the gate.

In this case, while other people were still manipulating their own phones, this one employee singled me out to put my phone away. Afterward, we still sat at the gate. I pulled out my phone again, while others did the same. Again, I was singled out by this woman in the most unpleasant of tones. I guess the fact that this woman, who had decided to make some example of me, while everyone else was left undisturbed, did get the better of me.

However, I have learned a valuable lesson. Airlines in the US are struggling with fuel costs, labor costs, bankruptcies, you name it. It's no secret that the level of service on US carriers has deteriorated to a point that would make Howard Hughes red-faced. Filthy planes, barely edible meals, cuts in jet service to less-traveled locations. One of the big changes, in my time, is in the increase of the post-9/11, paramilitary bearing of much of the air travel business. September 11th was a horrific day in the airline industry, yet in the wake of that event, I believe carriers and airports have used that as an excuse to make the air travel experience as inelegant as possible.

Most of the flight attendants I have ever encountered still have some remnant of the old idea of service. Add to that the notion that in this day and age, many people have a lot of important work to do, by phone, and would like to do so till the last possible minute. But there are many now who walk the aisles of an airplane with a whistle around their neck and a clipboard in their hands and they have made flying a Greyhound bus experience.

The lesson I've learned is to keep my phone off when the 1950's gym teacher is on duty. That was my fault there, even though this trip was quite a bit different from so many others. But it is sad, I think, that you've got to fly overseas today in order to bring back what has been thrown overboard by US carriers in terms of common sense, style, and service.

Again, my apology to my fellow travelers.