SWISS Boeing 777 Crew In Trouble Over Wing Photo Shoot Shenanigans

SWISS Boeing 777 Crew In Trouble Over Wing Photo Shoot Shenanigans

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While a lot of airline employees seem to enjoy sharing their lifestyle on social media, a SWISS crew recently took that a step too far, and the airline isn’t happy about it (thanks to Klaus for flagging this).

SWISS crew dances on Boeing 777 wing in Buenos Aires

20 Minuten, a newspaper in Switzerland, has the details of something that’s causing quite the controversy at national carrier SWISS. The Star Alliance airline operates a flight from Zurich (ZRH) to Sao Paulo (GRU) to Buenos Aires (EZE) and back.

The crew operates this service over three shifts, with one crew flying from Zurich to Sao Paulo, another crew flying from Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo, and another crew flying from Sao Paulo to Zurich. This incident involves the Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo flight a few days ago, where the crew had a bit of extra time on the ground, between when arriving passengers deplaned and departing passengers boarded.

For whatever reason, the crew opened the 777-300ER’s third door on the right, located over the wing. Why would they do this? Well, it seems that they wanted to do a photo shoot. You can see three different crew members stepping out onto the wing and then dancing and posing for pictures.

Two seem to be “standard” flight attendants, while one seems to be one of the two chief flight attendants, based on having multiple stripes.

As you’d expect, this kind of behavior is in violation of SWISS’ policies. The wing is almost 16 feet off the ground, and falling from the wing could obviously lead to a major injury or even death.

SWISS Boeing 777 crew having fun on the wing
SWISS Boeing 777 crew having fun on the wing

SWISS warns employees it won’t tolerate this behavior

Once this behavior was brought to the attention of the company, the airline took action, with the company’s head of cabin crew even sharing a video message with all employees.

Here’s what Michael Pelzer, a SWISS spokesperson, had to say about this behavior:

“What looks like fun in the video is life-threatening. The wings of the Boeing 777 are about five meters high. A fall from that height onto the hard surface can be devastating. This behavior will not be tolerated.”

“The behavior of the employees in the video neither corresponds to our security requirements nor does it reflect the high level of professionalism of our employees. In this case, individual crew members failed to act as role models. We cannot approve of this.”

Here’s what Martin Knuchel, SWISS’ head of cabin crew, had to say about this, in a message to employees:

“Hey guys, I’ll be honest. I’m angry and disappointed. What if the passengers no longer trust us when they see this video? This has to stop, there must be no more videos. But to counteract the first rumours, we won’t just fire someone.”

I’m happy to hear that the airline is using this as a teaching moment, without firing the crew involved. One has to wonder what the crew was thinking:

  • Did they not realize that it’s unsafe and not allowed to walk on the wing? I can’t imagine that’s the case, since this is something they should know…
  • If they realized this wasn’t allowed and they did it anyway, why? Did they think posting pictures on social media doing something that violates rules is a smart idea?
  • Why did no other crew members intervene? Did the chief cabin manager and/or pilots not know what was going on? Why did no one else raise a concern?

We often hear how flight attendants are flight safety professionals and are there for our safety, so it’s disappointing to see this kind of disregard for safety from a crew. It’s even more disappointing to see that no one seemingly tried to intervene.

Bottom line

Three SWISS flight attendants on a recent flight from Buenos Aires decided to have a quick photo shoot on one of the plane’s wings, while in complete view of the terminal. Not only is this incredibly unprofessional, but it’s also unsafe, given the risk of falling.

The airline has used this opportunity to send a message to all employees warning of the consequences of acting like this, though the staff in question won’t be fired.

What do you make of this SWISS Boeing 777 wing situation?

Conversations (45)
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  1. FireThem Guest

    let them do it, the next group does even more. Zero tolerance. Same for the stupid instagram snaps and vids pilots are doing in the cockpit. Do your job, fly the plane, and get us there safely. That's all I want from these entitled millennials who think they own the world and we somehow owe them something.

  2. James Eaton Guest

    Health n'Safety gone mad - yet again.
    Supposing - just supposing - the crew members involved did a quick risk assessment about going onto the wing; something along these lines, " Wing? very strong, Easy access? Yes, Anyone heard of anyone having problems going onto a wing before? No, in fact, I have seen many photos of people on wings. Anyone ever fallen from a wing? Not that I have heard, and I'm not...

    Health n'Safety gone mad - yet again.
    Supposing - just supposing - the crew members involved did a quick risk assessment about going onto the wing; something along these lines, " Wing? very strong, Easy access? Yes, Anyone heard of anyone having problems going onto a wing before? No, in fact, I have seen many photos of people on wings. Anyone ever fallen from a wing? Not that I have heard, and I'm not going to do anything stupid like fall. Anything stopping us from going outside now? No - we all have time." And hey presto!
    Seriously, these people most probably used their initiative - something frowned upon my certain societies... Imagine: "Heaven forbid - we can't have any one using their initiative. We train them extensively not to use their initiative except er... when there is an emergency." And there it is: the hypocrisy of this whole affair.
    Mind you, it has just occurred to me, perhaps one of those stiletto heels could/might/most probably/possibly/likely pierce the outer skin of the wing - quelle horreur.
    What a lot of rubbish - making a mountain out of a molehill.

  3. David Lamb Guest

    Had this been a US carrier, they would have been fired on the spot. Three reasons:

    First, it’s unsafe. A fall off the wing onto a concrete surface is likely to be fatal.

    Second, it’s reckless. The video demonstrates that the crew acted without regard for their safety and because of that, there is a question about how serious they are about their safety duties. This leaves anyone who watches that video to...

    Had this been a US carrier, they would have been fired on the spot. Three reasons:

    First, it’s unsafe. A fall off the wing onto a concrete surface is likely to be fatal.

    Second, it’s reckless. The video demonstrates that the crew acted without regard for their safety and because of that, there is a question about how serious they are about their safety duties. This leaves anyone who watches that video to doubt the airline’s commitment to safety.I

    Airlines generally have pretty strict social media rules and anything that puts the airline in a bad light is a violation of that policy and a serious on at that.

    Finally, this created a huge liability problem for SWISS. Had those employees been injured or killed, the airline would be responsible. It doesn’t matter if those FAs violated their policies. The airline is responsible for their safety at all times when they are away from home. The poor judgment of these FAs puts their company at greater risk. While an airline can retrain the employees, they cannot retrain the FAs personality.

    I suspect that Swiss laws may insulate the airline from greater liability for actions of their employees. The Swiss are generally pro-employee as well, so I can understand their actions.

    In my view, SWISS should have given them the opportunity to resign, and if it, then terminated. In the US, the airline would have discussed the matter with the union first, then terminated them for cause.

    I am an airline flight dispatcher. Our one absolute rule that you never break: We NEVER compromise safety. Do so and you’re fired on the spot. That is the way it should be.

  4. Alton Brinja Guest

    I read this was an approved publicity

  5. Jim Atkinson Guest

    Airline management has its undies in such a tight bunch, it might as well tell employees: "if we see you smiling at work, we will give you something to frown about." The industry runs on hysteria, first and foremost. No wonder it has so much trouble attracting good people anymore.
    Then, all of the sudden, when the crew faces an emergency they're supposed to instantly transform from obedient lab mice into superheroes. This scenario...

    Airline management has its undies in such a tight bunch, it might as well tell employees: "if we see you smiling at work, we will give you something to frown about." The industry runs on hysteria, first and foremost. No wonder it has so much trouble attracting good people anymore.
    Then, all of the sudden, when the crew faces an emergency they're supposed to instantly transform from obedient lab mice into superheroes. This scenario actually makes sense to the zipperheads in management. Obviously it makes sense to no one else.

  6. francesco Guest

    I believe Swiss was very lenient with the crew and there lucky to still be employed. At my airline you would have been terminated because it would be considered a major safety and security violation. Our procedures allow Flight Attendants to open doors ONLY in an emergency.

  7. Joe Guest

    Typical union - letting the recalcitrant and disobedient staff get away with murder

  8. LD Jeffries Guest

    Those plug doors will not close if they opened it and then the aircraft was refueled.

  9. Nancy Guest

    Maybe a little dumb, but I've seen worse. I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.

  10. Samo Guest

    LOL, this is blown so much out of the proportion. I recall days (long before social media) when pics of a crew on the wing were pretty common. I don't see anything wrong there - there's no impact on safety of anyone but the crew themselves, provided that they stayed within the part of the wing which is allowed to be walked on (within "the line").

  11. Bruce A Murr Guest

    They didn't get anywhere near the edge of a wing. They disabled to evacuation slides. The problem we have in this world is, no one is allowed top have a little fun. I applaud them. If they get fired, I hope they find another job that is so uptight and tight a$$ed.

  12. Aircraft engineer Guest

    Fall off the wing, lol it’s the size of a basketball court, typical fun safety police and people who have no idea. Guess what, stay away from the edge and you won’t fall off it you could do star jumps and back flips and not end up near the edge. (I agree remove shoes to protect the surface though)

  13. Andy Diamond

    This reflects pretty well the corporate culture of Swiss: Cheap and fun. They pay their cabin crew what is the minimum salary in some municipalities (there is no legal minimum in Kloten, the city where ZRH is located). And the incentive to hire is to „have fun“ …

  14. Fred Guest

    Aside from risk of height, the wings surfaces doesn't augurs well with stilettos and hard soles. We need to place wing walker to protect if needed to ne on it. Kinda silly.

  15. DCharlie Guest

    If only they gave us as much interest on improving their in-flight service and the pathetic slob they call food.

  16. NathanJ Diamond

    Schweizers gonna Schweizerisch…

  17. Minori Hanasato Guest

    The wing photo shoot stunt would also damage the wing. That could lead to a more catastrophic accident, and thus destroying the airline.

  18. SN Guest

    Ben,
    Do you know if LX uses South American based crews for these legs?
    It’s a completely different culture, and I’m sort of curious if this is an example of some culture differences.
    Not trying to insult any type of culture with this question, we all have our various values. I’m just fascinated and wondering if this can be explained that way?

    1. Andy Diamond

      No, they are Swiss based crews.

  19. Derek Guest

    You people complaining suck. Each of us is on this planet for a flicker of time. They were not being reckless. They were not rude or insulting. They endangered NO one. Go crawl back into your cages and peck at your targets to get your food pellets. Let some people enjoy living for Christ sake. What the hell is wrong with people? You are only complaining because they found joy in doing their job. Something...

    You people complaining suck. Each of us is on this planet for a flicker of time. They were not being reckless. They were not rude or insulting. They endangered NO one. Go crawl back into your cages and peck at your targets to get your food pellets. Let some people enjoy living for Christ sake. What the hell is wrong with people? You are only complaining because they found joy in doing their job. Something that eludes you day after grey grinding day. Is it so hard it find joy in someone else's happiness. Shame on all of you.

  20. Azamaraal Diamond

    On a Rovos Rail trip from Swakopmund Namibia to Johannesburg we did a side trip in "the last commercial DC4" from Windhoek to the Etosha Pan National Park Airport. Before our return flight the passengers were invited to "walk the wing". Possibly 5 m off the ground. No big problem or danger to passengers.

    I guess Swiss being Swiss wanted to be squeaky clean.

    Much ado about nothing.

    1. EK_engineer Guest

      So if it's 'much ado about nothing' why don't airlines put seats on the wings; and why don't you fly on the wing instead of inside the cabin?
      A wing has vital flight control surfaces. It is not a public pathway!

    2. Azamaraal Diamond

      Access to many functions used to be normal from the top of the wing - such as fuel filling, tank cleaning etc. Areas of concern are marked with NO STEP. LE and TE flight control surfaces are not readily accessible. Maintenance walking the wing (on the ground of course) is normal.

  21. BjornFree Guest

    if the infraction is serious enough to warrant a termination, it should result in a termination. Is the airline backing off terminating the employees due to employee pushback?

  22. John Guest

    It's Pathetic what people craving affirmation on social media will do for 'likes'. Meta, X and DikDok have ruined the world more than climate change.

  23. BradStPete Diamond

    You Know.... I flew for Pan Am back in the day. 747's MIA-Latin America and MIA-Europe and I have to tel you that NEVER EVER would such a thing even in our wildest occur to any of us.
    These Kids Today ! what an incredibly dangerous thing to do, not just a fall but damage to the aircraft, JEEZ !!!

    1. tom Guest

      I agree with the potential "damage to the aircraft" perspective. I thought that opening over wing doors in a non emergency operation is a problem because the weight of wings filled with fuel may complicate closing those doors during normal operations?

      Other than that, I don't think this incident warrants all that media attention.

    2. Christopher Joyce Guest

      I was JFK and MIA base at Pan Am in the 80’s and we had 3-4 hour sits in NAS or other Caribbean islands and the captain allowed us to suntan on the wings! But, once fueling began we had to get back inside and close the 3LR doors before firing started. Something to the effect that the airframe wouldn’t allow door closure if the wing tanks were full, if I can remember? Otherwise, it...

      I was JFK and MIA base at Pan Am in the 80’s and we had 3-4 hour sits in NAS or other Caribbean islands and the captain allowed us to suntan on the wings! But, once fueling began we had to get back inside and close the 3LR doors before firing started. Something to the effect that the airframe wouldn’t allow door closure if the wing tanks were full, if I can remember? Otherwise, it wasn’t a hazard. The wings were HUGE and had designated “NO STEP” zones where you just wouldn’t go into.

  24. Dale Guest

    How about the United Captain taking selfies in flight over Greenland? These self-absorbed people have no place in aviation.

  25. Robert Garcia Guest

    Finally, common sense. Discipline but no firing.

  26. Nelson Diamond

    As this was the flightcrew operating the sectors GRU-EZE-GRU I'm quite sure the crew was fully Brazilian (working for LX) or from the surroundings. I don't blame anyone, but it's commonly know'n that there are some folks that enjoy taking "some" risks to get something unusual at social media.
    They should know that a wing of a 777 isn't flat and if you slide off and fall +5m, worst case, your next flight will...

    As this was the flightcrew operating the sectors GRU-EZE-GRU I'm quite sure the crew was fully Brazilian (working for LX) or from the surroundings. I don't blame anyone, but it's commonly know'n that there are some folks that enjoy taking "some" risks to get something unusual at social media.
    They should know that a wing of a 777 isn't flat and if you slide off and fall +5m, worst case, your next flight will be in a coffin.
    Not to mention the eventuality one or both the engines were still have some power running, albeit that turnover is not that long. And a GE90 realy doesn't need to run full thrust to suck someone in. (Not that long ago Ben posted here about a aparently suicide of a groundforce guy being sucked in a MUCH smaller engine)
    Just like Ben, what wonders me most is that nobody else noticed that. Out of the cockpit or cabin you don't need a rearview mirror. I've done that complete flight hunderds of times in the last 20+ years and never remember the Pilots left the plane while at stopover in EZE.
    Brings me to the question, isn't it visible in the cockpit when an Emergency door is being opened and open? Didn't those guys walking around on the ground didn't notice something and tell the crew something? They just look like having a walk in the garden...

    1. Felipe Guest

      Not at all. Swiss doesn't have a crew base at GRU. The entire crew comes from ZRH, has a couple of days' layover in Sao Paulo, flies GRU-EZE-GRU, has another layover and then flies back to ZRH. They are based in Switzerland.

    2. Nelson Diamond

      @Felipe;
      I said "quite sure", not sure. They may be based in Switzerland but could perfectly being Brazilians or whatever like on any other Carrier. I have had many FA's on flights who, like in this case speak perfect (Brazilian) Portuguese. Albeit, off topic.

    3. Nelson Brazuca Guest

      What an ahole!

  27. Matrix.RX1 Guest

    they can't fire crew as they are severely lacking them at the moment.

  28. Jason Guest

    Okay, this is a kinda sensitive topic.
    Not that I agree with the crew's actions, but i just think there is more to it.
    First of all, this is not the first time cabin crews open the doors to walk and take pictures on the wings, and sure it won't be the last.
    Flight Attendants do all kinds of forbidden things when nobody's looking, from climbing on the engines, into the overhead...

    Okay, this is a kinda sensitive topic.
    Not that I agree with the crew's actions, but i just think there is more to it.
    First of all, this is not the first time cabin crews open the doors to walk and take pictures on the wings, and sure it won't be the last.
    Flight Attendants do all kinds of forbidden things when nobody's looking, from climbing on the engines, into the overhead bins, over the trolleys, and more...
    And airlines know it. Of course, there's little they can do other than reassuring this kinds of behaviors are not allowed and trusting their staff to do things by the book.
    Sure, walking on the wing of any aircraft is dangerous, but so are many other activities performed by flight attendants, and they are well aware of the risks.
    The whole thing about this situation was not that somebody did this, rather that they got caught and the videos made it online ( and no, i doubt that anyone of them would ever post those pictures on social media, at least while working for Swiss)
    Of course the airline is absolutely right about calling this out, because it violates published procedures. European airlines are usually overly careful about opening doors, most of them won't allow any door to be open unless there is a Jetway, stairs or catering truck docked on the outside, and even so, usually, it is required that two FAs are on station, one operating the door and one observing the procedure to make sure everything is okay. Not every airline have these policies, but I assume Swiss does. Many airlines globally give FAs freedom to operate doors on the ground whenever they seem fit, because they trust FAs are capable of doing it safely.
    My whole point is: I don't think it is fair to call this crew unprofessional for what they did. It was a violation of company policies, sure, but that per se doesn't make these people less qualified to act as safety agents.

    1. joeblonik787 Gold

      Would please you share with us one or two of the "many airlines globally" that allow FAs to operate doors "whenever they see fit?"

  29. roger Guest

    A fitting punishment for a stupid stunt like that would be Assigned to the Catering Facility to refill the salt and pepper shakers. Play stupid games and get the reward of a dumb prize. Lord knows they probably couldn't even dance. JFC!

    1. Jonathan w Guest

      Never look down on somebody’s job. You are worse than these people doing this if that is how you see the world. Without people doing all jobs no matter what kind, you wouldn’t have an airline.

  30. RF Diamond

    It reads like they won't just fire one person but multiple.

  31. Maryland Guest

    Were they doing the samba?

  32. Engel Gold

    Everytime I start to think about a South America trip, something like this happens.

  33. Sam Guest

    They just said they won’t fire someONE. They will fire some people.
    To me, his tweet genuinely sounds like a threat

  34. Icarus Guest

    Very irresponsible with a good response from LX. Behind the scenes therewill no doubt be disciplinary proceedings.

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Felipe Guest

Not at all. Swiss doesn't have a crew base at GRU. The entire crew comes from ZRH, has a couple of days' layover in Sao Paulo, flies GRU-EZE-GRU, has another layover and then flies back to ZRH. They are based in Switzerland.

3
joeblonik787 Gold

Would please you share with us one or two of the "many airlines globally" that allow FAs to operate doors "whenever they see fit?"

2
EK_engineer Guest

So if it's 'much ado about nothing' why don't airlines put seats on the wings; and why don't you fly on the wing instead of inside the cabin? A wing has vital flight control surfaces. It is not a public pathway!

1
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