“There are 31 cell phones, eight laptops, and six iPads still on”

Ugh, the Miami flight attendant base is really a sore spot for American, in my opinion. Flying from Tampa to Miami this morning, the self appointed purser (not the actual purser, but the coach flight attendant that decided he wanted to make lots of announcements) got on the PA and said “there are 31 cell phones, eight laptops, and six iPads still on.” I thought he was trying to be funny, though two minutes later he said “there are still 10 cell phones, two laptops, and three iPads that need to be powered down.”

Then a minute later “ladies and gentlemen, there are still three cellphones on, and we can’t push back till they are off. You’re delaying our flight.”

It seemed this was actually his technique of trying to get people to turn off their electronics. While most people in first class laughed at him or rolled their eyes, I didn’t see any reactions in coach, so some people probably believed him.

I found that to be terribly unprofessional, and I was tempted to mention it to him. Unfortunately this guy looked like the Hulk’s bigger brother, so I wasn’t about to say anything. I’m still mildly tempted to write a note to American mentioning this (not because I want anything, but because I think a supervisor needs to sit down and explain to him you can’t make up rules as they suit you).

Has anyone else had a flight attendant do this? Would you say anything?

Filed Under: American
  1. I don’t think I would say anything, but I had an AA FA last week say , ” for those of you with an iPhone, here is some help. Hold down the top right button until you see a red slider on the screen, and then slide that to turn the phone off.”. Really? Aren’t you smart.

  2. I had a similar patter from an AA FA a couple weeks back. I thought it was a bit clever to get people to pay attention, though going on and on about it like your FA did seems excessive.

  3. If it’s an FAA regulation, then they have to. It’s AA who would have to pay any fines for them leaving with the cell phones on.

    Kind of ironic that you say you can’t “make up the rules as they suit you” when you’re defending and have defended leaving phones on during take-off.

  4. I had a few DL FAs do this in the past. They only did the announcement once on the flight so it was more humorous than annoying.

  5. I think this is perfectly fine behavior by the FA. People are supposed to power down their electronics when the door is closed. If passengers refused to do this, they are delaying the flight.

  6. the real a-holes are the ones with their cell phones still on. just live with the rules boys and girls and if you don’t like it don’t fly or go private. as ann points out you are defending him making up rules when actually he is just “over-enthusiastically” trying to implement the ones in place

  7. Speaking from personal experience, most passengers think they’re slick when flipping their phones over, dimming the screen, etc. after the personal electronic “must be OFF” announcement has been made. After repeating yourself numerous times to passengers and them still disregarding the instructions, I say the flight attendant had the right to call out those passengers (although not directly) and let them know that the flight could not take off until instructions were followed. It truly is for safety purposes.

  8. I don’t condone leaving on your electronics when you are asked to turn them off and I don’t condone a FA intentionally lying to their customers, saying things any experienced flyer knows is untrue.

  9. @ Ann — It’s a regulation, but that doesn’t justify them lying. What’s next, “put your seatbelt on or you’ll be abducted by aliens?”

    @ Martha — LOL!

    @Mark — The thing is, there was no compliance issue. He made the announcement a second after the door closed and didn’t leave the galley between the announcements.

  10. It’s not the FA’s fault that they have to enforce a rule that everyone knows has no affect on safe air travel. I’m certainly not going to get bent out of shape over creative methods of enforcing that rule.

  11. I dont think Lucky is saying that people should not power off their devices, the problem is a FA purposely lying. He does not know how many devices are on.

  12. Not a very classy move by the FA.

    More or less the equivalent of making airplane noises to get a child to eat something.

  13. Similar, I had a pilot come on and say “My instrument panel tells me six seatbelts are unbuckled. We can’t push back until they are all fastened” and then did a similar countdown.

    How insulting. As if we believe these circa-1974 seatbelts are transmitting a signal to the cockpit!

  14. @Brian

    I just bought my first iPhone 2 weeks ago (4S, Verizon GSM) having switched from Blackberry. On my first flight with it, I went into airplane mode but had a dead battery on landing (7 hr flight). Second flight I asked the FA how to power it off (I saw her on her iPhone in the gate area) and she politely told me. Perhaps the slew of new iPhone users is causing them to proactively advise the difference between full power off vs airplane mode vs sleep.

    As for making up rules, the “we can’t pushback until.. ” is a made up rule. The countdown is a lie. How are we supposed to trust people, especially in an emergency, if the first thing they’ve ever said to us is an obvious lie?

    If you want trust and respect, the way to get it is to start out giving it.

  15. What a bunch of whiners and losers we have become, We attack the person doing his/her job but we condone the people breaking the law/ rules.
    Next time you are speeding and get pulled over by the cops, tell them that you still have to speed a little longer because you haven’t gotten to your destination…this is exactly why we are not the great nation that we used to be……

  16. UA364, LAX-DEN, 10/25 – I heard a new one: “The cabin door has now closed. Anyone who is still operating an electronic device is subject to an immediate $1500 fine.”

  17. No one really addressed the fact that the F/A has no way of knowing how many devices are still on. There is no “meter” that indicates this in any way, shape or form. After 35 years of being an AA F/A, I have found that there is just now way to stop these “little Hitlers” from acting like they are in charge. And, according to the FAA, if the F/a’s do their job by informing a passenger to turn off these things, or fasten their seatbelt, etc, they have done their job, they are not required to go any further, they are not the police.

  18. File it under pet peeves. AA doesn’t need to hear about an FA trying to enforce annoying rules with annoying announcements.

  19. I predict this will be one your biggest posts this year!

    that said, this is such a contentious issue for people. Those who think that yes, we should simply comply with the rules/Law while flying in this precarious object. And then those who chose to shirk the rules and don’t care, either believing that this cannot be a TRUE issue or they simply don’t care about their fellow passengers enough and feel that they are so important and have to have constant access/connectivity.

    That disclaimer out there. I think whatever the airlines chose to do to comply is up to them. You are IN their CONTROL. It is the LAW and they chose to enforce it (and if they don’t they can be fine a LOT) so why the heck don’t they/shouldn’t they do whatever it takes to get the children on the plane to line up in order.

    I find it pretty stupid and or arrogant of the iphone/ios user who tries to convince me that their iphone/ipad/macbook air is OFF just because the screen is asleep and they haven’t actually done the off slider. come on, who is the stupid one in that scenario?

    I do think that it would be trivial to test for devices like phones which are on, they have these electronics today why not just put them in the planes.

  20. I’m completely with lucky here. What an arrogant douchebaggery. OF COURSE there’s no way the FA can tell how many devices are on. Because it does not matter if devices are on.

    I leave my phone on every flight, every time.

    Still alive!

  21. I’ve had a stupid FA announce, “We’re showing a bunch of you with seatbelts still unbuckled.” I tried to exchange incredulous looks with the F people, but they were all tuning out the announcements anyway and didn’t catch it. But behind me in coach, I heard a chorus of clicks, so I guess that little deception was effective.

    I support FAs that enforce seatbelt rules more than those that try to enforce electronics rules. Studies have proven that electronics do no harm to avionics. In fact, I was talking with an American Eagle pilot the other day and they forget and leave their cell phones on in the cockpit sometimes. Apparently the only effect it has if the cellphone is right next to (i.e. almost touching) their headset cables, it causes just a bit of static. That’s the ONLY effect. And from my understanding, that wouldn’t be a problem if they properly shielded those cables! And that’s with transmitting devices. Regular non-transmitting electronics are beyond the pale as far as harm. Do you see them turning off the seatbelt/no smoking signs, extinguishing every light, etc, etc? Do you realize what a horrible non-sequitur that is? The airplane is stuffed full of electronic devices running full blast.

    I’ve become quite adept at concealing electronic devices, especially cameras. I’ve also noticed that FAs are much slower to enforce rules on F passengers, which is very, very nice. I guess they assume that they’re seasoned travelers and know what they’re doing.

    But like I said, I support enforcement of seat belt fastened while seated rule. There have been instances of calm air turbulence with serious injuries.

    I’m delighted to comply with fact based rules, but will do my best to evade brainless, nonsense rules.

  22. I turn off my phone when I fly. Not because it will interfere with instrumentation, or because it is regulation – but because it preserves battery. The phone adaptively increases its radio power when searching for a signal and consumes battery much faster. I want to have enough charge for use when I arrive at my destination.

  23. I turn it off as a courtesy to others. It might be a valid or invalid rule but it only takes a second and prevents the worry prone fliers from thinking we’re going to fall into the ground due to my device being on.

    I call it using my manners and being polite.

  24. ETA: if more people stopped being special snowflakes, I assume crew wouldn’t need to make up stories to get others to glare at them until they turn off their devices. The FA would be able to get his power high on by making people tuck their bag in under the seats and fasten seat belts. You know, things that impact safety.

  25. I don’t meant to get technical, but a pilot actually explained to me that despite the low risk of electronic signals actually interfering with the plane, they rather take no risk since the downside will be really bad.

    Every device, even between those of same make, has their own ‘pulse’, like we have our heartbeat. It is entirely possible, that over course of time, these ‘pulses’ could come to a synchronized pulse, which can neutralize the communication system or worse, temporarily shut off electrical pulse for aircrafts. Just like the famous example of perfect oscillation where soldiers walking across the bridge happen to all come to the same beat, the bridge is expected to collapse? Pilots are afraid that may happen one of these days, however low that risk may be.

    I’d rather turn off to avoid any chances of that happening! I mean, really, is it really that much to ask of us to turn it off until we reach a cruising altitude?

  26. If this kind of petty stuff causes you such outrage then you must live a very charmed life.

    Pity you can’t harness your righteous anger for something that actually matters.

  27. I have to agree that the FA was annoying but also shrug and put it in the so what category. If that’s the worst an airline employee ever does to you, life is good!

    I always thought the reason we turn cellphones off is nothing to do with air safety. It is to protect the cellphone network, which cannot cope with 800 cellphones travelling at 300mph all switching between the same towers at the same time.

  28. Please, write the letter. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do things. Lying to your customers fits into the latter.

  29. First of all, I think this is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard to complain about. Really pointless. If you found that offensive, you are incredibly thin skinned

    “Unfortunately this guy looked like the Hulk’s bigger brother, so I wasn’t about to say anything.” – seriously? If this was such a big deal, you should have grown some and said something. If it was a small female FA, you would have had no problem telling her off? Nice!

  30. I’m a little surprised at the stupidity of the majority of the negative comments on this post. Clearly the majority of commenters misunderstood the point of this post, which was to point out that it was unprofessional for the FA to make up some silly story, claiming to know the exact number of electronic devices that were still on in the cabin.

    No where in this post does lucky take a stance on the FAA’s electronics policy. I agree completely that it was unprofessional for a flight attend to be dishonest or misleading (and in this case obnoxiously so) about a safety issue. I guess anonymous blog comments are not the most thoughtful of responses.

  31. @Mark G- Well said, you are absolutely right. I too fly for AA and find it maddening when an FA feels the need to make an example of the customer by calling them out over the PA system. I’ve yet to find the page, in the inflight manual that says… “Scold the entire aircraft for an issue that applies to a select few”.

  32. Right approach: Walk down the aisle and tell people to turn off electronics/buckle seat belts, then make an announcement stating you noticed several people with electronics still on or seatbelts unbuckled.

    Wrong approach: making stuff up.

  33. SInce I also fly private (usually on someone elses dime), i usually dont give a rats ass about electronic devices being turned off. The rule applies to commericial air travel only, and does not affect the aircraft systems, even on small jets.

  34. Lame. Americans are little whiney babies and complain about anything and then try to get something for free. The guy just wants to change up the routine a little. Cut him some slack. Maybe you should sue him. Let the guy do his job. You have other things to worry about, like keeping your blog interesting and informative. I agree with Daniel.

  35. As explained to me by a pilot, the electronics interference matters only during low visibility and bad weather when auto pilot is in used (I think that is what he said) however, the FAA wants to make it to be a blanket rule so there’s no confusion as to when electronics can be on or off during takeoffs and landings.

  36. Question for people – do you guys actually power OFF completely – or just put it in airplane mode or turn the wireless/bluetooth/radios off?

    I know they tell you to POWER down, but I would think just turning off the wireless signals should be sufficient?

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