Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Don't Ever Argue With a Flight Attendant

Rule No. 1: Don't Ever Argue With A Flight Attendant
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By KEITH L. ALEXANDER
Washington Post
October 9, 2005


Margot Romary will never argue with a flight attendant again.

When she boarded her US Airways Express flight from Portland, Maine, to Philadelphia on Sept. 6, a flight attendant asked her to store a small bag containing her jewelry and other valuables in the overhead bin or under her seat. Romary refused. She normally kept the bag strapped across her chest, even on other flights, she insisted. But the flight attendant was adamant: Store the bag, Romary was told. Finally, a US Airways gate agent and the plane's captain appeared in the cabin to intervene.

Romary lost the argument: Federal Aviation Administration rules require that all carry-on bags be stowed in the overhead bin or under the seat. Romary agreed to store the bag under her seat.

But it was too late.

The flight attendant informed the plane's captain that she felt "threatened" by Romary and wanted her off the flight. So Romary was escorted off and was offered a seat on the next available flight, which was the following morning.

"This was so unjust. No one said that, 'If you don't comply, I'm going to eject you from the flight,'" Romary, an Oakton, Va., information technologist, said. "There was no warning. Nothing."

Beware: Follow the requests of your flight attendants or be prepared to suffer the consequences. And don't expect a warning. Airlines side with their flight attendants in any dispute.

The repercussions for getting the boot can be severe. Some airlines, such as American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, keep their own lists of ejected passengers, who are in some cases barred from future flights. Most of the prohibited passengers were kicked off a flight because of verbal or physical abuse of a crew member or another passenger. How long they're not permitted aboard depends on the severity of the offense, said American spokesman Tim Smith. He added that a passenger can be permanently barred from flying on the carrier.

US Airways spokesman Carlo Bertolini says Romary was not barred from future flights, adding she was welcome to fly on the carrier again. Bertolini declined to comment on the specifics of Romary's case.

The stress level among flight attendants has only increased in the past four years, after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and waves of job, benefit and pension cuts. Many flight attendants work for financially struggling carriers and must perform tasks that used to be handled by two or three workers.

"Every flight attendant in this country is more on edge than they were before 9/11," said Patricia Friend, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, the nation's largest flight attendant union.

That means some flight attendants are less willing to engage in verbal sparring matches with passengers.

Friend said flight attendants were more inclined to weed out the noncompliant passenger before a flight takes off for fear that the traveler would become a problem during flight. "If a passenger demonstrates an unwillingness to comply with our request for them to obey the rules before we even take off, then we know that we are potentially going to have difficulty with that person through the entire flight," Friend said.

The best advice for passengers who have to argue their point is keep it civil and wait until you arrive at your destination.

Romary, who is scheduled to fly on US Airways to New Zealand in coming months, said she will no longer fly with a carry-on bag to avoid another incident. "I'm just going to carry my handbag; that's it," she said.

6 comments:

Traytable said...

Oh I have the "it is/it isn't too big to carry on" argument ALL the time....

Passengers just seem to forget that WE are the ones who are trained to know what is safe or not safe on board the aircraft.

I'm not saying it's too heavy to carry on for the fun of it!! If they get too agressive about it, I usually joke and ask how they would feel about it falling on THEIR head... usually they say okay, they'll check the bag =)

ukexpat said...

As a passenger who complies with the carry on rules, I side with the flight attendant here. It makes me mad when passengers openly flout the carry on rules and try to wedge huge pieces of luggage in the overhead.

In fact I would encourage gate and flight attendants to enforce the rules much more stringently.

Fly Girl said...

I think that passengers forget that we ask for compliance in stowing your carry ons because it is a requirement of our job. Here in the U.S. it is a Federal Air Regulation, and our noncompliance in enforcing the regulation may result in fines to our airline or to us personally.

We aren't trying to be control freaks; we're just trying to do our jobs. And like everyone else, we'd like to be able to do our job with as little grief as possible.

By the way, you can take your bags out during flight, it's just during the take off and landing phase of flight that everything needs to be tucked away. Really -- is there anything that you can't be separated from for those few minutes?

Traytable said...

Exactly! With my airline it can be difficult as the bins on the various aircraft can differ greatly in size... so what is fine to carry on during one flight MUST be checked in another.

And it is also a requirement here, though we may make allowances if a flight is not full as the bag may be stowed on an empty seat if the seat belt is used to secure it (but only if it still fits i nthe weight limit)

Anonymous said...

As a flight attendant, I dont understand why people have a problem with the few rules that they must follow. Stow your bag correctly, use PED's when it is the proper time to use them, bring your seat back and tray table to the correct position when asked to and obey the "fasten seat belt" sign. Other then that there are not really any other rules but ask a passanger to follow any of the ones mentioned and you would think that we were asking them to stop the world from spinning. This country is sooo spoiled. Ask a person to have a nano second of discomfort and "BAM" you would of thought world war 3 has just begun. I tell you, most people go around living in a bubble and it's all about them and what they get and dont cause them any discomfort what so ever .......

Ok ... I am off my soap box now!

Anonymous said...

I fly pretty often and have sometimes (not always, to be fair) encountered flight attendants with a chip on their shoulder almost looking for an excuse to use their unquestioned, nearly unlimited post-9-11 powers on the next person that dares to step out of line. The fact that your airline may be poorly managed and there have been layoffs doesn't empower you to be a nazi. It's not my fault. I've seen flight attendants become irrationally agressive with passengers who make simple requests, like an update for a delay. I hate flying. Yes, sometimes (even often-times) passengers are difficult. But it's a two way street. Sometimes flight attendants are out of line.