March 19th, 2012
There was a nice article in the N.Y. Times over the weekend about a United Airlines flight attendant from Hawaii, who is still working at the age of 83. His name is Ron Akana, and he's been doing that job for 63 years. It's evident he loves what he does. But it raises some questions about when one should retire, and passenger safety on airline flights.
Comments posted on the site where I first saw the article link suggested that Ron might be a liability in an emergency due to his physical condition. An anonymous commenter said he was on a flight that Ron was working, and claims the UAL flight attendant is hard of hearing. I don't know if airlines do regular sight and hearing check-ups, but it would seem reasonable for that type of job.
The other issue raised by the article is money. After he turned 70, Ron was earning over $100K per year through a combination of wages, pension and Social Security -- they call him a "triple dipper." He says it's "vacation money," implying he doesn't really need the job to get by. Which I think is great, since I personally don't like the idea of mandatory or early retirement. For most people, being put out to pasture when you still have skills or experience that can be put to good use, is not a good thing.
However, at a time when so many people are out of work -- "young" whippersnappers in their 40s and 50s, compared to guys like Ron -- is it really fair that he keeps holding on to a job that does have physical requirements? Have you seen how much stuff people are cramming into "carry on" luggage they try to jam into overhead compartments? I've been on a few planes where the flight attendant had to risk hernias while helping passengers with their heavy bags. On a more serious note, unruly passengers can be a real threat in the air, and you have to wonder whether an 83-year-old person can handle such altercations without suffering a stroke or heart attack.
Here's the link to the NYT piece, which may or may not work for you, since they have a paywall. (If you're registered with them, you can access up to 20 articles per month for free.)
What it does remind me though is flying is not nearly as fun or glamorous as it used to be.
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