Flight Attendants Behaving Badly

I’ve witnessed a few confrontations between flight attendants and passengers in my day, and I’d say that at least four out of five were entirely the passengers’ fault. Some people don’t understand the rules and won’t listen to an explanation. Others think they can bully flight attendants  into letting them break the rules.

So why, lately, am I reading and hearing so much about flight attendants who seem to be very much in the wrong?

Most notable was the Continental Express flight attendant who apparently told a mother to "shut your baby up"’ when the child kept chanting "bye, bye plane" before takeoff. The flight attendant then suggested feeding the child Benadryl to make him sleep. After the mother refused, the flight attendant told the pilot the mother had threatened her – which the mother and several other passengers deny. The mother and toddler were thrown off the plane.

Most recent was the Skywest flight attendant who reported an Australian woman to the police after the woman, disappointed by her snack, said "fair dinkum." The cops questioned the passenger about her swearing at the flight attendant. The very Australian phrase "fair dinkum" is a bit like the American "Oh, great," which can mean a wide variety of things, depending on the inflection. It’s not a profanity.

The police let the woman go.

Believe me, I understand that flight crews are nervous about disruptive passengers who could become dangerous. And I know there’s reasonable concern that a seemingly spontaneous disruption could be a distraction to cover for an organized attack.

Passengers need to know that aggressive outburts can’t be tolerated in flight. And I think it’s generally a good thing that the precautions and restrictions enforced after the Sept. 11 terror attacks have required some belligerent passengers to think twice about abusing flight crew.

Yet it  seems to me that there might be a few – a very few – flight attendants who take advantage of those precautions and restrictions to intimidate the passengers they are suppposed to serve. And I think it might be a good thing that some of these incidents are publicized, because they might embarrass those few flight attendants back into line.

Let’s be clear. While interfering with a flight crew is a crime, disagreeing with a flight crew is not. Neither is complaining to, complaining about or requesting something from a flight attendant.  Or saying, "bye, bye plane," especially if you are still in diapers.

Fair dinkum?


One thought on “Flight Attendants Behaving Badly

  1. Lindsay Wright

    Flight attendants’ dislike of todders might be more widespread than we think, and might be symptomatic of a more widespread tendency within society. I have just flown back from New York to London on Delta airlines. We were delayed for 2 hours on the runway, during which I was asked by the flight attendant to ensure my two year old stayed in his seat with his belt fastened – even though we didn’t move an inch in all that time. This I managed, with extreme difficulty, by singing him lullabies and nursery rhymes in a low voice, thus avoiding any toe-curlingly hideous tantrums. I felt proud of my efforts, and was expecting praise when, after a while, a flight attendant appeared. I was to be disappointed. She leaned over and asked if I could possibly keep it down, as there had been some complaints about the ‘noise’. Is it just Americans who think it is OK to tick off tiny infants simply for daring to exist in public spaces? I’ve never encountered intolerance like this before, or the assertion that people travelling with children are second class citizens who need to be kept in their place, in over 10 years of flying with my 3 kids – it would certainly never happen on BA or Virgin. On the way over, a robustly built American passenger had digged me in the ribs, shouting ‘Some of us are trying to sleep’, simply because I had dared to sit in the bulkhead seats with my two older ones and make quiet conversation. And this was at 10am, not the middle of the night. I was astonished – I don’t like to generalise, but people seem to behave so rudely on US flights – and their behaviour is condoned, and often emulated, by the cabin crew.


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