The Most Screwed Up Thing I’ve Ever Heard An Airline Employee Say

Filed Under: Delta

Yesterday Travis wrote about how a family was kicked off a Delta flight from Maui to Los Angeles. Long story short, Delta was technically correct, but the family was confused about Delta’s policy. Airline rules are pretty complicated, and they made an honest mistake. Delta issued an apology for how they handled the situation, which was the right thing to do.

While it was mentioned briefly, I think there’s one thing we really need to draw attention to, because it’s beyond screwed up.

Delta called the police on the family because they refused to get off the plane. If we are to believe United’s latest customer service commitment, they wouldn’t have called the cops in this situation, since it wasn’t a matter of safety or security. So it seems like Delta is being less customer friendly than United here.

Delta’s use of law enforcement is hardly surprising, and isn’t what I’m drawing attention to in this post. What’s screwed up is that after the cops arrive, the flight attendant tells the family the following when the father says that the police can remove him off the plane, if I’m understanding it correctly:

“Then it’s going to be a federal offense, and you and your wife will be in jail, and your kids will be put in a foster care.”

First of all, if you’re going to call the police on your customers, let them handle it. Second of all, what kind of a horrible human being makes such a threat? The passengers were genuinely confused and clearly meant no harm. And my gosh, that guy had a very calm response after the threat the flight attendant made.

I know we’re talking about a small minority of bad apples here, but when will flight attendants learn that they’re not law enforcement officers? They can’t send people to jail. And in a situation like this, there’s no way in hell people would be sent to jail. Passengers might be removed from the plane, but they won’t be going to jail after for simple confusion over the contract of carriage.

Maybe I’m being harsh, but I think this is simply inexcusable. I don’t think someone should be in a customer service role if their go to response is to falsely threaten customers by saying that their kids will be going to foster care if they don’t get off the plane. Even if it’s the flight attendant’s first offense, I hope she’s fired.

Even more puzzling is that this comes just shortly after the Dr. Dao dragging incident. You’d think flight attendants would be extra careful about what they say, knowing full well that it’s probably being videotaped from multiple angles. But that doesn’t stop her. This is worse than anything that was said during the Dr. Dao incident.

The sad thing is that this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen video of such a threat. But for some reason it’s always on US airlines that these threats are made.

Dear airlines: maybe it’s time you remind your employees that they don’t have the authority to send people to jail, and that threatening to send someone to jail isn’t good customer service?

Just last week Delta published a video smearing the Gulf carriers, talking about how every US aviation job is at risk, and about how our military won’t be able to go to war if we don’t stop Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar, from flying to the US. They wanted us to campaign for them.

As of the time of this post, here’s how many likes and dislikes that video has:


The comments are scathing. People don’t like the “big three” US carriers. There’s a reason for it. Maybe Delta’s “Our Future, Our Fight” campaign should be based around focusing on taking care of their customers/not threatening to send customers to jail and foster care, rather than trying to get us to campaign for them over airlines that actually make us feel appreciated.

/rant over

Am I being too harsh here, or is there any excuse for a flight attendant threatening to send passengers to jail and foster care?

  1. The flight attendant is stupid. She much constantly get coffee, tea, and diet coke with ice screwed up all the time. She couldn’t count ice cubes to save her life, and if she wasn’t a Florida ght attendant she would probably be a go go dancer.

    She needs to be fired.

  2. Honestly, Delta deserves this. Their hubris needs a check, especially when they decided to skip on the Congressional hearing where airlines presented plans on changes after the Dao incident.

  3. I agree with DB . Keep bangin on them. They deserve it.
    A lot of their indiscretions never get publicity, but they’re out there doing it.

  4. That’s the point i have been trying to make.. us airlines and their employees want to make money the easy was. Ala overboard boarding , rude customer service , the food they serve. And then they would complain about their job. Ala point a to b, make sure after comes first …etc…, but all I see is that the big airline let it be delta, united , aa .. its because they ARE big airlines they DON’T CARE.. only after people start posting about the events and mediia attention do they realize that the people the are kicking out are their customers.. Other countries or smaller airlines deal with the same situation but they are able to deal with it because they ARE taught that they are also in the business of customer business. I read about how the m3 are subsidized. You know what even if they are subsidized they still show they are great airlines. The food is great , their service, and etc… if American Airlines were subsidized I bet u their attitude will be even worse.. do not worry about other airlines clean up ur company first or else u will be accommodated by another airline…

  5. The usual US airline employee power trip. They forget they have jobs and the airlines have a business because of all of us, the customers. I have suffered st least three times at the hands of these cutomer unfriendly attendants… when will US airlines learn…?

  6. As poorly as all of these behaviors have been I am beginning to be surprised that more people are not leaving the aviation profession, at least the front-line employees, over this. As long as this continues to happen, it is just going to make the situation worse. With mobile phone and YouTube, customers will become more and more adversarial, no matter how right or wrong they are, as well as employees having their wits tested. Some people are on power trips, like some of the security, cops, and TSA that use authority to intimidate, but many are just overloaded. Often it is due to poor communication from management that is divorced from the on-the-ground experience as well as being human. Compounding it is a lack of accountability from management, as we saw from United, until the problem becomes a crisis.

  7. Not harsh at all…As a father of twin 4 yr olds, this could’ve been me…When are we going to stop taking their abuse?

  8. The most screwed-up thing I’ve heard from an airline employee was a Mesa Airways captain who came out of the cockpit (on the ground, during a maintenance delay) to rant at and castigate the purser. Nowhere near as bad as the above, but still shocking. She had announced that we were waiting for a piece of cargo to be loaded; this was going to extend the delay a bit. The pilot came out and yelled at her so that the whole F cabin could hear, along the lines of: “You shouldn’t have told them that! They don’t need to know everything. They’re already angry, so you should have aid that we’re waiting for a couple of pieces of luggage to be loaded. That way they think it might be their bag and they don’t complain.”

    Then, as the ground crew was leaving, he told them “Tell maintenance from me that they did a horrible job.”

    This was a few years ago. I reported it to the mainline carrier after the fact and they said that Flight Services would review it, though of course I don’t know if anything came of that. I think under present circumstances I would express concern to someone about the fitness of the pilot and try to have him removed from the flight.

  9. I can’t think of anything much worse an employee could say to a parent in this situation. Inexcusable!

  10. Nope, you hit the nail on the head. These US based airlines need to feel the pressure and make changes just like any other free market business has done. If you can’t keep up with the standards then perhaps not being in business is a better longterm solution. Let someone else offer the product/service if they can do it better. They’ve been lining their pockets for too long instead of reinvesting in their business to improve quality of products and services.

  11. Its all about the bottom line customers come last. PROFITS AND MORE PROFITS, yes delta you are a business but the way a customer is treated across the board concerning travel is just terrible.

  12. Maybe airlines should train their employees not to be such pricks. After 9/11, US FA’s have gone over the line many times. All this is just inexcusable. They’re just abusing their power.

  13. While I disagree with the exact way she handled it you are totally out of line asking for her to be fired, even if its her first offense. FAs have extremely stressful jobs and the pax do not make it any better, between the way all pax loose sense of common decency or respect when they enter an airport to pax who treat FAs like they are inferior to them to pinching their behind and making sexual comments, now you add a passenger who was asked numerous times to move his child and refuses because he thinks that he owns that seat and the FA is just trying to get the flight out on time so she can get home. She did overreact to the situation but should not be fired. Calling for her to be fired for her first offense is out of line and insensitive to their daily lives where they make $30k-$40k a year. If everyone was fired for overreacting to an issue no one would be employed. Should Boarding Area fire you for your initial response to the Dr. Dao incident?

  14. Blame on the union , try secure your job after this in Asia or Middle East…only in America…

  15. Lucky,
    Surely you have a trip report to talk about….

    The social commentary is getting a bit exhaustive.

  16. I want to start by saying the passenger was in the wrong here and technically nobody checked into that seat and was empty. However , explain this to the the passengers that you cannot switch the person that the ticket was bought for and he has to move ….not you can’t let a 2 yr sit alone and that you will be arrested. It’s the reaction of the flight attendants that are horrible and they should be fired. If they don’t know a child can fly in a car seat or that people will be arrested they are obviously untrained and don’t know flying policy. Frankly I would not trust them to save passengers if they don’t know rules and policy. What else don’t they know. Really poor customer service.

  17. NOT HARSH AT ALL!!! FA’s are nothing more than glorified Waitresses.

    The Obama era made this kind of behavior happen. Do you think Trump would let a FA talk to him this way? I don’t think so!!! Obama would though. He would just walk off the plane not wanting a confrontation.

    It’s time we stood up for ourselves!!!

  18. The only thing the US airlines’ FAs learn at/remember from training is the umbrella statement “we are here for your safety”. They interpret this to mean (1) we can do pretty much anything using safety as an excuse = crazy power trips; (2) get by by doing the barest minimum when it comes to providing service.

  19. Agreed. Everyone reading this who hates the big 3 should do the following:

    1) write your congressman and tell them that our three airlines need to have their customer service and minimum seat pitch regulated. I normally don’t like government regulation, but when there’s only three major airlines, none of them will care anymore and the free market can’t take care of itself.

    2) go to youtube, watch the Delta video and click “dislike”

    3) send a customer service email to Delta through their website and tell them how disgusting they are.

    4) only fly Alaska, JetBlue, and Southwest whenever possible from now on. They don’t mess up nearly as often.

  20. Customer service does not just happen. It is part of a corporate culture, one that does not exist at the US carriers. I have great experience with building and maintaining a customer service culture. A customer service focused business eats, sleeps and drinks service (think 4 Seasons Hotels, Disney, etc). You can ask customers to follow the rules AND still deliver service. The Delta employee was way out of bounds with these comments, and I would hope is going to be suspended and receive additional training. On a more macro level the entire focus of the US airline business has to switch to a customer first approach, and that is clearly not their model presently. The Gulf airlines, who ostensibly receive government support, have that attitude, which would seem counter-intuitive in as much as they would be less dependent on customer revenue to remain viable. Changing the culture at the airlines will not be easy, but if I were CEO it would be priority number one for the foreseeable future….

  21. Ben,

    The harsh truth is that “blackjack dealer in Vegas” and “Delta Flight attendant” are about the only jobs left in America that have a good “pay to education” level.

    The people hired for these jobs aren’t terribly well educated, are doing in more for “travel and experiences” more than a “desire to serve humanity”. Add in a dollop of fascist corporate management and “by the numbers” objectives and you have a recipe for service disasters– which are served up daily in aluminum tubes all over this great land. Now that every single one of them thinks they also are wearing a TSA badge– well, it’s ripe for ugly abuse, as we’ve seen.

    That flight attendant should be immediately put on notice and be given 100 hours of “service training”. Her HR file should be noted.

    To tell a family (who presumably were just trying to get home after a week’s vacation in paradise) with paid tickets back to the mainland that “you are all going to jail and your kids to foster care” is a sick statement from a diseased human being.

  22. Unfortunately, so long as people keep flying, this will keep happening. Only when the airlines start really losing customers/dollars will they begin to pay attention.

  23. Not harsh enough. If any other business treated customers like the Big 3 legacy carriers, they would be out of business. Virtually every single aspect of flying promotes bad behaviors on the part of their employees and customers (e. g. Heavy handed confiscation of carry on baggage, boarding process, etc.). Time for a revolt.

  24. I used to be a United 1K…after a few bad customer service experiences 3 years ago traveling with my baby-daughter, I specifically choose foreign carriers whenever possible and use the domestic carriers as a last resort. For family travel they are much more child-friendly in my experience, and for business – they are usually more consistent and service oriented. All domestic airlines need to do is improve service and no need to worry about the Gulf carriers…the US is a huge market and it should not be impossible to offer a comparable product.

  25. Following the faux pas everything was quite dignified. No shouting. The staff member introduced herself , was polite and they shook hands
    The problem here was too many people involved and they needed to make a decision without delaying the flight
    It will always be the case people might say something in the heat of the moment , mouth before brain and regret it after
    Filming every incident , posting it and then having everyone commenting is becoming out of hand nowadays
    In many countries it’s prohibited to take photos or make flims of people without consent : Brazil, France, Japan, Spain and Switzerland
    Article 9 of the French civil code is fairly lengthy, but essentially if you film /photograph someone in France without asking consent you are in the wrong
    Most airlines also state this in their terms and conditions regarding images taken on board aircraft:
    “Recording videos and/or taking photos other than for personal use is prohibited inside the aircraft cabin “

  26. Beyond the ludicrous threat to throw them in jail, my biggest issue is the outright lie by the agent that FAA regulations preclude children under 2 from sitting in their own seat. The FAA has no such rule, and in fact encourages the opposite. I’ve purchased a seat for my under 2 child multiple times. But most egregious is that Delta clearly states on its own website: “For kids under the age of two, we recommend you purchase a seat on the aircraft and use an approved child safety seat”.

  27. I have seen some bloggers too eager to kiss the ass of Delta, and blame it on the parents. Luckily, Lucky is not one of them.

    Yes, the parents did not know better, but the dad did pay for the seat (albeit for another son). So while rules are rules, and he cannot legally use that seat for another son, instead of Delta FA explaining it nicely to him, it is “call the Police” and threaten to jail both parents and send the kids to foster care? (At least, the Police now know not to bash up folks, thanks to Dr Dao.)

    However, how is that person qualified to be an FA? That FA needs to explain why she should keep her job. (no, I am not asking her to be sacked. but she must explain how she would be still qualified for her job when she – made such a huge, intimidating threat to the parents, when her primarily responsibility is for the safety of all passengers, and she does something like this to intimidate the parents, which could in turn scare two young toddlers? Is a safe FA someone who issues such threats and calls the Police at her whims and fancies?)

    Thankfully, the dad was really calm despite such intense and intimidating pressure.

    And the dad was happy to hold the baby in the end, and yet they are still kicked off the plane, and no Delta support in the middle of the night. So while Delta is right that contractually the parents cannot use Mason’s seat for the toddler, is the Delta team right to kick him off when he is willing to carry the baby? Is the Delta team doing the right thing to tell the family that they are on their own?
    (If your answer is yes, please be happy to receive such treatment if you or your family members are placed in the same predicament.)

  28. @Jung; Delta flight attendants are not in a union. Not sure why you would blame the union. Fun sound bite though.

  29. You aren’t harsh…For Delta actually producing something this idiotic reminds me of living in Eastern Europe before the 80s. The Communists/socialist government could explain things that made my head hurt from the stupidity. I always questioned why they think we’re that stupid to believe all this nonsense. Then I looked around, I saw many believing it because no experience or knowledge about the subject and I was sad. Very sad.

  30. Question – The dad is claiming he explained to the gate agent the situation prior to boarding. The gate agent claimed that the lap child could indeed occupy the seat that was originally intended for the oldest son (who flew home on an earlier flight). If this is true, is the family still in the wrong for initially refusing to give up the seat?

  31. Delta, United, American = all the same. The race to be the worst in how to treat their customers while only looking out for their bottom line. Misguided at best and more likely delusional, but regardless, they are completely out of touch with their passengers and reality.

    Proud to say I have only flown on 2 AA flights in the past 4 years, 0 on Delta in the last 6 years, and 0 on United in the last 10 years. Why? Because they’ve got it all wrong and I’m not going to be subjected to their abuses in whatever form it comes in. I’m not certain if they will ever really ‘get it’.

    Southwest I will recognize as a great airline, though I don’t fly them because their model doesn’t fit my travel patterns or needs. When I have had to, it’s been pleasant.

    There needs to be a sea change of a culture shift in the customer-facing roles at all of the Big US3 airlines. Until they do, we will see more of these failures. Delta let United fall on the sword without learning a thing from it. The attitude of “So long as it’s the other guy’s getting the heat, we’ll duck under the radar” without giving the incident a second thought on changing their own culture. Hence, this situation.

    Delta only compensated them when it became a PR event. Otherwise, it would have quietly been left alone. Despicable. Deplorable. Deceitful. Delta.

  32. A friend of mine who is a flight attendant for AA says is the best part-time job she could imagine. She has ~ 10 years of experience and make $34,000 a year working 71 hours a month. (yep that breaks down to about 18 hours a week) Full benefits paid, 4 weeks vacation, flight provides, etc. Can work as many hours as she want or just the minimum.

  33. I don’t care what actually caused this interaction/exchange.

    It is simple: if you are in a customer service role (care, safety, well-being of a customer/passenger etc.) then you provide it!

    I cannot believe the disgusting, wrong and unnecessary words that came out of the flight attendant’s mouth.

    The airline should be ashamed, provide compensation to the family and fire that person.

  34. @JK: Unfortunately, so long as people keep flying, this will keep happening. Only when the airlines start really losing customers/dollars will they begin to pay attention.

    True– but there is no way out of that as there is so little competition, and we still have to fly.. So they will keep getting our money as there is no viable option B (except in specific markets like the North East Corridor where Amtrak is a major disrupter)

    Also, so the guy and his family were offloaded and were subject to considerable expense and inconvenience. What if anything happened to the flight attendant?

  35. Ever since 9/11, American fight attendants think they’re God and can get away with anything. This is why I never fly on an American legacy airline.

  36. She needs to be fired. She did not simply put three ice cubes in a diet coke instead of two, she lied to passengers , threatened them with srrest, and the removal of thier children. Knowing better is her job. If a first day employee did that at Macys – they would be fired. If a cashier is caught stealing- even on the first day- the store diesnt cut slack. If it was her first offense, its about time she git caught.

  37. also, a small but telling change: they used to say- flight attendants are primarily there for our safety and comfort. Now they don’t even bother to add the comfort part.

    It’s funny- United with Dr Dao; American with the stroller incident; and now Delta with this. Why can’t the big 3 behave more like Southwest?
    Granted these are 3 passengers out of some hundreds of thousands of people who fly daily so it’s not in relative terms a frequent occurrence.

  38. I agree. It might help.

    Howver, heres what i think will happen. The current electronics ban with some middle eastern carriers is just a litmus test- swalloed in the cause for safety- by the American public. All of these lattest issues were caught on cell phone cameras. The airlines will lobby congress and demand the ban extend to domestic flights due to terrorist concerns. Now you will have no recordings of what happens and as they say – the s-hit will hit the fan.

  39. H-E-L-L-O….. “your children will be put in foster care”… yeah, that’s out of line, big time! Perhaps this series of air missteps will improve the level of service in the skies!!! Wondering what’s going to happen next week!

  40. This is what happens when you give a bunch of waiters and waitresses the authority to make decisions normally accorded to law enforcement, but with none of the accountability that law enforcement has to deal with.

  41. The FA was in the wrong to state a legal judgement. She does not have that right nor expertise. This and other incidents that has happened is an example of a training opportunity for every airline out there. Customer Service training, needs to be a main focus for these airline companies. Customers on flights should continue to be vigilant about recording these abuses and obvious power tripping of airline employees. This kind of behavior has to stop and only by making it known to the public can the airlines be held accountable for their actions. There is always a way to speak to customers without having to threaten them, what happened here was totally unacceptable and yes, she should be fired!

  42. I’m so happy these airline employees are being exposed for spewing out crap they make up! They’ve been on their high horse since 9/11 all in the name of security don’t you know **EYE ROLL**

    Unfortunately, their unions will also not take accountability and defend these morons.

  43. I will say this. Out of everywhere I’ve flown Gate Agents and Flight Crews seem the grumpiest in Hawaii. I’m sure it’s because few airlines have good product flying to Hawaii and it’s 99% leisure travel. Every pax will ask for an upgrade or try to get something for free because this is a very infrequent blowout trip for them. I’m sure airline employees are tired of dealing with it.

    That does not justify the behavior in this case, no threat other than removal from the plane should be levied. Fine, call the police, if for no other reason than to add to the threat of removal. But verbal threats like this one cross the line.

  44. I never fly coach any more so if the treatment I get in first/business is anything to go by, a lot of FAs act like Sister Mary Elephant in the ’50s and I am surprised they don’t storm up and down the aisles with rulers in their hands ready to rap knuckles of unsuspecting passengers. I don’t think at all that these are isolated instances, they’re just being posted about.

    The customer service culture starts at the top and at least in AA’s case, look at that arrogant POS Doug Parker who is single-handedly responsible for spitting in the faces of their most loyal customers, their FF’s. I have gotten on planes on more than one occasion and greeted the FA only to be ignored. Pre-departure beverage? It might interfere with galley gossip. Look at the Byzantine rules and regs of every simple flight. You need a PHD and a law degree to wade through the crap and not one bit of it is to the customer’s advantage. I’m just so grateful I no longer have to be a road warrior. It’s hell in those friendly skies.

  45. It is so apparent how much you favor middle eastern carriers. Since delta is at the forefront of that battle you love to bash on them. You said “delta is technically correct.” Yet you go on to bash them and say United is more customer friendly than United? That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard. I read your blog daily, but comments like that made me question how much is fact and how much is you leaning one way or another. Anyone will tell you Delta is light years ahead of United. And that looks like an officer speaking to the guy, not a flight attendant.

  46. @ Neal — a) I didn’t say that United is more customer friendly than Delta, I’m saying that United’s policy would have prevented them from calling the police, apparently b) I said Delta is technically correct in terms of policy, but not correct in terms of threatening to send the parents to jail and kids to foster care c) It’s not the officer who makes that statement, it’s the flight attendant

  47. You know what? I really want to say thanks to the us airlines for doing a great job in their respectable business. the way they service their customers, the way they worry about our safety, the way they re-accommodate their customers, the way they want every airlines in the world to play by their games( no subsidizing) , they wonderful food we are served, the huge legroom we have in economy, the bags we have to check in for FREE( at a reasonable price) and the wonderful mileage redemption de-value that the us airlines have given us. The us airlines are always their to be the FIRST and the BEST airline industry in the world. They are here for us from their MANAGEMENT to their FLIGHT ATTENDANTS. I really want to thank you, if it weren’t for code share I do not know what to do. THANK YOU…

  48. @Neal

    “Everybody” is a pretty loose statement. Many of those who’ve compared all 3 in large markets feel DL is measurably worse in IRROPS and their customer service shows it. Many people (including several Congressmen) didn’t get to their destinations for days last month on DL… and we’re treated to the worst of DL hospitality while they waited.

    60% of their metal flies through ATL every day.

    So it’s hardly a foregone conclusion that any of the big3 is ‘best’.

  49. Seems like a perfectly natural reaction to the recent hysterics to me.

    When you unjustly slam flight attendants (the United attendants did NOTHING wrong), most will seek to be extra careful while some will be annoyed and overly defensive.

    Though if the passengers did nothing wrong, why were the police there at all? And of course flight attendants can’t send people to jail, according to your quote they didn’t say they would though…

  50. There are many examples from history which show that when you give power or authority over others to people of limited intellect or education they behave very badly. It never ends well.

    TSA is another good example of this.

  51. You hope that the flight attendent is fired? Ok but that is small peanuts. What about the person or people who decided to hire her? What about the Vice President responsible for customer service?

  52. I completely agree with you. I am also bothered by the threat from the Delta employee – telling the Guy that “it’s going to be a federal offense, and you and your wife will be in jail, and your kids will be put in a foster care.”. That’s was not necessary and not even true. Also, then another Delta woman makes it even worse and says “The situation is this plane is not going to move, and that’s fine, we can just sit here all night…” She claimed she was trying to help, but obviously she was not.

  53. The US airline industry is in trouble when Aeroflot offers better service than America, Delta and United.

  54. While I don’t travel hundreds of thousands of miles a year (how I wish! Think of the points!!!) I have travelled internationally a fair bit. In my experience the US Carriers employ overbooking most widely – in fact I cannot recall any similar incident with any Asian carrier.

    Given that these sort of situations are more likely to arise and coupled with stressed/less well trained cabin crew, it’s unlikely we’ll see much change soon. A shame.

    The last time I visited the US was 4 years ago with my then 3 year old. Coupled with a meagre OneWorld Ruby status, but travelling coach on AA (OneWorld partner), we had a surprisingly decent experience traipsing across the US.

    No plans for visiting right now though.

  55. A few people have mentioned that this will keep happening as long as people keep flying with the big three. Of course this is completely true but only to a point. As soon as negative publicity or poor customer service affects the bottom line or balance sheet, then airlines will act.

    Look at how the Dao incident affected United’s share value and forced United to rewrite policy. It’s amazing how a dent in the finances can lead to action whilst thousands of customer complaints might have no affect as long as they have no financial impact. That’s why it’s important people like Lucky blog about these incidents. The wider the circulation, the greater the damage to the brand – and subsequently income and value – and the more likely the airlines are to take action to prevent further occurrences.

    Also, I’m not privvy to what Delta’s or American’s internal response was to the United incident but you’d have thought it would be good business practice to make a priority of informing those in customer-facing roles of what not to do in similar situations and to remind them of the likelihood that all confrontational events will likely be recorded. Despite this both have had newsworthy customer service incidents since then. This says a lot about the state of the airlines – either they didn’t respond to the United incident in a correct manner (or at all) or their management system is so inefficient any new directives didn’t get through to front-line staff.

  56. I have a slightly different take. The big carriers are nickle and diming on everything they can. Is it not likely that they are reducing the time and quality of training for FAs? Something so simple as the car seat being preferred to lap travel, the FA got that one badly wrong.

  57. Based on where I live Delta is the primary game in town. I’m generally more satisfied with their FAs than UA or AA but that’s not a high bar. No way are you being too harsh. The laws and regulations are in desperate need of change to require flight crew to be subject to lawsuits if their actions behind the guise of safety aren’t reasonable. Right now they have more power than law enforcement officers with far less accountability. Something is dramatically wrong and we know what it is.

  58. Not harsh at all, but I believe the harshest criticism should be reserved for top management, which has created a culture of incivility for the sake of profit above everything else.

    Shrinking cabins, shrieking flight attendants, and more antagonism in the air are the predictable outcomes from the top echelon of many US carriers.

    The company’s only loyalty is to shareholders! The company doesn’t give a damn about you, me, or anybody else unless that person owns a healthy dose of stock.

    By and large, I don’t expect to see much change, despite public pronouncements from CEO’s who put out well crafted yet likely PR drivel, after the dust has settled.

    No Lucky, not harsh at all, but the root of this rests at the top and has for many years.

  59. @Bill

    The weird common thread is basically that one party in a contract dispute can unilaterally decide (and has the right to apparently) to bring in muscle in the form of the cops or whoever those Aviation Security thugs were in Chicago recently. To enforce a contract dispute! What other realm of American endeavors allows that?

  60. Wasn’t this airline the same one that when the investigated the people killed in their plane crashes , if the found out the passenger was gay, the airline would negotiate with the family to taking less money or they may out the dead passenger? 60 minutes as I recall.

  61. I said it on Matthew’s blog, but I think it bears repeating here. What you’re seeing are the fruits of the “we’re primarily here for your safety” culture that has affected all of the major carriers post-9/11. Both the FA who called the cops and threatened the passenger, and the employee who made up the “FAA regulation” that requires all infants to be carried as lap children, know they’ll never be held accountable. Why? All they have to do is claim the passengers posed a “safety threat”, and so that’s why they called the police and threw them off the plane. And guess what? Management will have their backs every step of the way – because “national security”. Doesn’t matter that the employees were in the wrong; the customer disobeyed or otherwise got mouthy with an employee, and therefore their ejection and calling of the authorities is justified.

    Somehow, we have got to break this culture where bad employees can provide rude service, misinformation, outright lies, etc., and then get-off scot-free by bringing in the cops when customers call them on it, just by playing the “safety” card. Maybe all of this bad press will finally start shifting the paradigm.

  62. People don’t know flight attendants are only paid for time in the air so they want the plane in the air people need to be more cooperative

  63. Fire her!!! That was a nasty personal attack by the stewardess who was on a massive power trip. Not only should she be fired for this incident, as nasty as she is she will most likely do something similar to other customers.

  64. One strike you’re out. You guys must not be in management. If I fired everyone who screwed up major everytime, there would not be many people let.

  65. Another vote for not harsh at all.

    Here’s how you know there’s a problem with the Big 3: take even an informal poll of people who fly infrequently – particularly families. I’d bet 90% prefer to fly Southwest and JetBlue. Because they are friendlier, more welcoming. It *is* a culture issue. And these recent issues are representation of the culture of the legacy airlines.

    Those of us who fly all the time and have status with legacy carriers have become numb, or stopped noticing as we stupidly chase status and miles.

    Absolutely there are good people and great employees on Delta, UA and AA. But…even they can’t make up for what has become a toxic culture from the top down.

  66. Different track here, but did y’all notice that it was the dad who didn’t want to hold his 2nd child during the flight, while the mom still must have had the other young child on her lap? The dad probably didn’t like being inconvenienced by having to hold his kid on the flight to Hawaii, so he sent his older child home early so *he* could be more comfortable on the way back. Just saying…

  67. There was a problem. The passenger tried to sit/use a seat that was not his. That part seems very clear.

    They asked him to leave. Not obeying the crew is a federal offense. Crew is stressed trying to deal with this. They inform him of the federal offense. A bit round, but all factual.

    Fire somebody everytime there is a mistake? With 2 million people flying everyday in the U.S. along, shit happens.

  68. Not harsh at all and well reasoned.
    Congress should open up our domestic routes to the Gulf carriers.
    AADLUA would be out of business in three months.

  69. These incidents are only the beginning. The flying public is demanding ever lower fares which means more crowded planes. Other results include overbooking that turn your seat into an ejection seat, smaller seat size and pitch, charges for food / seat selection / checked bags, stressed out and ever more nasty crews, enraged passengers, and ugly incidents being recorded by multiple smartphones. The race to the bottom gets worse by the day and each incident is worse than the last. Next will likely be punch-ups between passengers and crew, then will come serious injuries, long prison terms and enormous lawsuits. I’m already thinking of ways to steer my career away from tasks that involve air travel, even though I’ve managed to avoid the violent carnage so far and even though I enjoy the destinations and the folks I meet along the way. I don’t want to be there when the s*** hits the fan.

  70. Thanks Lucky for so eloquently expressing my thoughts! Sometimes airlines rules are not that logical to a non-frequent flyer and an aviation geek. Plus some version of the news actually reported that the parents talked to the check in agents and s/he actually were okay with that arrangement.

    I really understand being a F/A is not an easy job. They are really working under rather poor conditions and as airlines cram more seats, that means they are serving more passengers. At the same time, they really need to understand that they can certain call law enforcement agents but they are not allow to make any decisions regarding any arrests or charges.

    Other than a European style comprehensive passenger bill of rights, I really hope FAA can make it clear about the role of F/A and pilots in these safety situations. What can they do or not do?


  71. @Snook7, where do you get the idea that the Obama era made this happen? Do you have any evidence for this? It is not like the shrinking of planes and seats, overbooking, and other problems began during the Obama administration.

    To the multiple people who have pointed to corporate culture, you are forgetting that there have been multiple well-publicized incidents of Southwest throwing people off planes, too. It’s not just the legacy carriers.

  72. @Ken

    ” It is not like the shrinking of planes and seats, overbooking, and other problems began during the Obama administration.”

    I’m loathe to make this a political discussion, but let’s face facts. The three most damaging (to customer service, to the reduction of customer rights, to elimination of competition) mergers EVER in American aviation all happened between 2009-2015. Continental-United, AirTran-Southwest and USAir-American.

    None of those were opposed by Obama’s Justice Department, despite huge outcry over the effects of the reduction of competition. As these deals closed, of course, Richard “Head” Anderson over at Delta (himself a beneficiary of a merger that finalized as Obama was elected, as well) started to preach about ‘capacity discipline’. This was a code word for “Hey, we are down to only 4 airlines now, if we stop adding seats to our fleets, prices will go up, load factors will go up and profits will go up…”

    It was an amazingly effective, albeit illegal, strategy. So now the planes are full; if you get bumped on a Sunday you might get ‘re-accommodated’ on the following Thursday and, if you pipe up about it, apparently the airlines can send cops on board to bash your face in.

    All this was launched under Obama. The same administration that easily could have sent a few banksters to prison for robbing us blind in the financial crisis also turned a blind eye to consumers’ interests by Rubber-Stamping the airline mergers that make life so miserable.

    Whether its Wells Fargo signing up 5 million fake bank accounts or Delta Airlines selling the same seat on the same flight multiple times… it’s the same “oh, the corporations are looking out for Americans” attitude Obama fostered at work.

    And, I voted for the guy twice, but am sick at what we are suffering from for it.
    Politics do matter.

  73. No, you aren’t being too harsh – you’re completely right. The FA is absolutely sick.

  74. @Tachyon, good points on mergers. But what Snook7 said was just idiotic: that Trump would not let a flight attendant talk to him that way, and Obama would.

    If we want to get into the weeds on mergers, the DOJ has been following “Chicago School” economic analysis, which is much more tolerant of mergers, since the Reagan administration. These three were mega-mergers, but they were so because of all the previous mergers/takeovers that preceded 2009.


  75. I think it’s time to call out these individuals that act out and pleasure themselves with their bullying. What are the names of these attendants using Gestapo techniques on paying passengers? Once identified, it will be quite difficult for these cretins to find future employment.

  76. @Ken

    I’m not sure how ‘in the weeds’ it is to talk about the mergers. I fly a lot (as you can tell from my handle, I pretty evenly split my time between Maui, SoCal and DC) and have for decades. There is absolutely no comparison between how one got treated in IRROPS or over-booking or ATC situations 20 years ago versus today. I’m 1K on UA and ExP on AA, yet will regularly hear “oh we can’t get you there for four days”– even when Virgin or Alaska or JetBlue has plenty of inventory for sale…. The mergers have allowed the Big 4 to toss customer service out the window, along with common sense.

    The product on the majors is much worse today (I just came back from London on a new-ish UAL 787 in Economy Plus– the seats are tighter, the food worse, the FAs surlier– so it’s MUCH worse than Regular Coach was in 1995. MUCH MUCH worse. The only plus is the entertainment selection, all else is a minus.)

    So, yeah, ultimately I think politics do factor in. By now it’s clear that “market forces” won’t bring an improvement– not with the collusion among the Big 4– and after awhile there will be wear-out factor with the cameraphone-videos (“Oh, another passenger being dragged and beaten? That’s so 2017!”). What else can bring pressure to bear on these airlines???

    So, ultimately I think it will take a political solution– aka ‘an Airline Passengers Bill of Rights” like the EU has. That works and it’s probably what we need. Obama-Holder-Lynch couldn’t be bothered…. The new guy actually mentioned ‘breaking up the big banks, finally’ the other day, so maybe he can get something done on it? At least he didn’t get elected with campaign contributions from Wells Fargo and Delta Airlines.

    Who knows? I just think it’s unsustainable like it is. Misery in rolled aluminum, millions of times a day.

  77. @Tachyon, I definitely agree it’s political, and I agree we need an Airline Passengers Bill of Rights. The Obama Justice Department let us down on mergers, but so did the Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Reagan administrations. And please note that Obama did not receive any money from Delta: Here is Delta’s contribution record going back into the 1990s: The only candidate supported by Delta or Delta PAC in 2016 was Steve Scalise (R-LA). No contributions in 2008 or 2012 at all. In 2002 and earlier, Delta gave to both parties. Also according to Open Secrets (, Wells Fargo made no contributions to Obama or Trump, though $500 grand to the Democratic convention host committee last year.

    BTW, what does IRROPS stand for?

  78. @Ken

    IRROPS is “Irregular Operations”. That’s what kicks in during ATC delays, cancellations, thunderstorms, etc wherein airlines can run’t a normal schedule.
    Usually it means LOTS of displaced passengers. In “the old days” with load factors in the 60s, there were lots of spare seats to “re-accommodate” passengers into.

    Now, however, it costs the airlines :”real money” to buy seats on other airlines, find alternate arrangements, etc. So, generally, they don’t do it and pretend like it’s OK for passengers to be stranded for days in their hubs waiting for alternate flights. This is NOT an exaggeration, as Delta had 4000 flights cancel in that debacle last month. That’s hundreds of thousands of passengers, many of whom had to wait for days for alternatives.

    I have no explanation for Delta’s don’t give a flip attitude then– they didn’t even show up (again) for the Congressional hearings the other day. At least the others pretended like they cared and came to be browbeaten.

  79. Refusing to leave the aircraft when directed to do so is considered interfering with a flight crew, a felony under federal law. The flight attendant has an obligation to inform this family before they are arrested. So much for all the know it alls who want to tell others how to do their jobs

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