I had just gotten into my belt-buckled, headphoned comfort zone when the pilot turned on the air conditioner and all of a sudden waves of steam (smoke?) began pouring through the cracks. I clamped my hand over my mouth, not sure what I could be breathing, and cursed that we hadn't yet been instructed to locate the nearest emergency exit.
The pilots shut down the airplane and the substance disappeared immediately as they announced that all passengers should leave the plane while they investigated the problem. I grabbed my bags and gladly got the hell off the plane and back to the gate. Here is where people start to amaze me. Within two steps of reaching the terminal people began to demand an explanation. When there was no instant answer the gossip began to ripple through the aisles like a juicy high school rumor, and the airline immediately became an instant outcast.
When it comes to flying, I'm all for safety first. When they announced that we would be switching to a new airplane but would have to wait for it to be towed to the runway there was a collective groan throughout the crowd. It's this point that the flight attendants need to pull out their PR skills. "Attention passengers, remember how fifteen minutes ago you were scared for your life? And you know how flying involves incredibly complicated machinery that defies the laws of gravity? Well, we take that kind of thing seriously and would like to make sure you actually make it to your destination even if it's a little later than you expected."
Of course, I'm no fan of delays, and I realize that there is often an important event waiting on the other side of the connection for many people but I swear that there is a sense of entitlement pumped into airport air. When we were further delayed because we had to wait for a new crew (frustrating, sure, but would you rather have a sleep-deprived pilot?!) the airline immediately responded by informing us that everyone would be compensated for the delay and offering sincere apologies. I just pictured that smoke, picked up my magazine and waited for the next boarding call.