Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

It didn't begin well.

Here was a premium United Airlines passenger ordering an old-fashioned.

And there was the flight attendant claiming the airline didn't have it, even though it was there on the menu.

Things got worse. The passenger, who happened to be Zach Honig, editor-at-large at travel blog the Points Guy, says the flight attendant finally found one, but wouldn't offer him another one.

Of course he did.

But this didn't seem to escalate toward more old-fashioned service.

Honig says he was told there were no candied orange peels to go with his drink. Only to discover the crew had kept it for themselves.

But then came the ultimate indignity. The flight attendant was wearing headphones. Yes, while serving passengers.

No sooner had this occurred that my inbox enjoyed some appalled messages from United Flight attendants.

"I've seen this myself on flights," said one. "Flight attendants wearing Bluetooth headsets around their neck. It's usually younger ones. Must be a generational thing."

A generational thing? You mean the steady generational dissipation of basic courtesy?

My flight attendant sources say that these young ones don't generally have the headphones in their ears, but keep them around their necks, so that they can immediately play their own music in between services.

Passengers are essentially unbearable, don't you know. Even -- or, perhaps, especially -- those in first class. You need a little instant Shostakovich to get them out of your system.

United has, I'm told, tried to stamp out this sort of headphone nonsense, but to little avail.

"Those uniform compliance checks the company wanted to do don't really seem to be having much effect, eh?" one United flight attendant told me.

The headphone issue wasn't, though, the only United flight attendant faux pas last week.

As Honig's post garnered attention, an alleged United customer called Gianna waded in with large Wellington boots.

She claimed that there really is only one old-fashioned in each cart. My flight attendant sources tell me this is bunkum.

"Since it is a featured drink on the transcon flights, catering would make sure they board plenty," a United employee told me.

Gianna continued with withering Twitterisms. 

"Food service is just a perk," she wrote. "They [flight attendants] are trained safety professionals to evacuate customers in a burning crash ... even the drunks!"

Worse, she began to intimate that Honig was something of a serial imbiber. 

"Always the drunks causing the issues. Free alcoholic [sic] ... they drink like camels," she observed.

Gianna must have seemed like an especially committed United customer. 

That is, until the Committed Truth-Seekers of the internet concluded that she was actually a United flight attendant.

"She's most likely no longer an employee or facing severe disciplinary action," a United flight attendant told me. "Even though she tried to delete her account, those screen grabs are out there forever."

Well, they're prominently displayed at Airliners.net, I can tell you.

I contacted United to ask whether Gianna -- and, indeed, the headphoned flight attendant -- had been severely dealt with.

The airline didn't immediately reply.

United ought to be charmed that its own flight attendants read these stories, clutch their foreheads, and ululate at the stars.

Many want to be proud of their airline and their co-workers. This was particularly clear when United tried to foist a game show-style bonus scheme upon them -- in which only a few would actually get a bonus at all -- instead of their regular, predictable bonus for all.

One of their main objections was that United employees didn't want to be singled out. They wanted to be rewarded as a team.

Perhaps, in that instance, the man behind the absurd bonus scheme, United president Scott Kirby, was wearing headphones when he conceived it.

Published on: Jun 24, 2018