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Coffee, Tea, or…

I had an unusual surprise on my way back from San Francisco to New York yesterday, 8 month old in tow: Friendly faces and decent service. It’s no secret that virtually every airline is on the edge of going under these days, thanks to 9/11, fuel costs, and various management messups. The employees have piad the steepest prices, in the forms of layoffs, and for the lucky ones, dramatic salary reductions. It’s hard to imagine how these folks keep going as their jobs get harder, the pay gets lower and their pensions disappear. Traveling lately, I’ve expected bad service, and I haven’t been disappointed.

But these American Airlines stewardesses, harried as they seemed, someone how managed to seem as if they liked their jobs yesterday. The gate agent managed to find the last available seat and let my baby on in her car seat for free–saving me from 5 guaranteed hours of hell (and everone else on the plane, too!). Another held my purse for 20 minutes while I got things adjusted. Still another appointed herself the ambassador for a very old woman who needed to be practically carried to the restroom every hour or so.

None of these things would have been shocking in the olden days. They all go with the job description. But it got me thinking: how do you keep the game face on when working in a demoralized industry? How do you provide service with a smile when you’re crying inside? Ideas?

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