Friday, July 29, 2011

Korean Air, The Way It Was

Perhaps it's the baby blue, perhaps it's the youth, perhaps it's the style B-U-T Korean Air* has the best stewardesses. How can an American company compete? Simply put, could any US company enforce these job qualifications and not get their tail wings sued off?

Though official job postings would never say so, it's been reported that recruiters for South Korea's largest airline only hire young, pretty things under the age of 26.
In Korea, being a flight attendant is considered a prestigious career, and the hiring process is selective and rigorous. For example, it's been reported that girls are scrutinized and must undergo bare-faced inspections for a clear complexion.
They must also have good teeth and be slim. Preferred applicants are under the age of 27, must hold a college degree and meet a height requirement of 5'3".
If the candidates are more than 27, they must possess a special set of skills to be considered. In 2008, a human rights agency accused the airline of discrimination against men in its recruitment of cabin attendants. Of Korean Air's 4,700 flight attendants, 10 per cent or 436, are men.
Requirements, as posted:
  • Height minimum 5"3
  • College degree
  • English is required
  • Corrected eyesight 1.0 or higher

Indeed, if these criteria were applied to an American Airlines or a USAir flight, there would be almost no cabin crew on board. In fairness, though, the position of stewardess or steward is not nearly as revered in the States. Consequently, a Korean Air flight attendant is special in a way long lost by the domestic American carriers. So what?

If the point of air travel is to get from one place to another safely, it makes no difference as to whether the crew is young, spiffy and sexy as opposed to older, worn and walled. For travelers looking for "more" than boxcar air travel, well, don't go American. Korean Air services 130 cities in 45 countries. As such, if a trip is beckoning, a clever roustabout can pick and choose to taste. Nonetheless, seeing one of those ads, the ones with the baby blue overtones, makes a person want to go - anywhere... they go!

Alright, so there is a tinge of ageism, sexism and probably more -isms at work here. In fact, the idea of this schmaltz makes any self respecting wide bodied American want to yell out, "bullcrap-ola". So the uniforms are crisp, so the flight attendants are attractive and polite, so-so-so...

Boxcar flying is the way for Americans. Herding people, who have come to resemble livestock in proportion, into cramped, crowded and sweaty fuselages is acceptable. After all, what would a pack of people willing to pay extra for a seat, a bag, a pillow, a towel, a drink, and a snack expect? Oh, by the way, the rumored movement to charge for toilet paper by the square has been put on hold by Alaskan Airlines...

Once the self acclaimed GREATEST COUNTRY ON EARTH, America has fallen into the briers. The three D's (the debt ceiling, default and the debt) appear insurmountable. With no new industry and a prevailing anti-intellectual and anti-science ethos in place, well, pass the beer and the chips, please.

Yeah, if old enough, an American can recall when domestic flying had the feel of Korean Air's offerings. But most of those Americans are either dead, enfeebled or too ensconced in the blah-blah of life to care. The younger Yanks neither care nor do they know any better.

Sometimes it's nice to go back to the way things were, even if the notion is fanciful. Like going to watch a ball game at Fenway Park in Boston, the feeling of nostalgia and significance is awe inspiring. Indeed. And if a post game flight is needed, right-o, Korean Air services  Logan International. Just sayin'... Ta-Da!

E cosi va

*Motto = Excellence in Flying

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