bad attendant

If you fly often enough, you’re bound to come up against some rude and even flat out hostile flight attendants. As with any service interaction, you’re going to encounter people who do their jobs poorly and those who do it well. The major difference between dealing with a rude employee at a restaurant or hotel, however, is that on an airplane issues like safety and comfort take on far more significance.

A hostile flight attendant will at the very least make your flight less comfortable and pleasant, will likely say and do certain things to embarrass you in front of your fellow passengers, and can even have you taken off the plane and detained or arrested. (These final instances are more common than you might think, and often occur without cause.)

So how do you deal? Here are a few tips:

  • Remember: they are doing a difficult job.

Not only is working as a flight attendant an exhausting, physically demanding, stressful job, but ever shrinking airline budgets often mean they’re working longer hours for less money. Flight after flight they deal with difficult passengers and a variety of other stresses. So if a flight attendant is being a bit sharp or inattentive, sometimes it’s best to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  • Also remember: there are a lot of legal and security ramifications.

After 9/11, flight attendants were given “first responder” protection status, which means they wield a lot of power. It is fully within their right to kick you off a plane with the potential for serious legal consequences.

  • Speak with the purser.

If a particular flight attendant is being abusive, stay calm and ask to speak with the purser. They’re sort of like the equivalent of a hotel shift manager, and they’ll work to resolve the situation.

  • Contact the airline.

If the situation doesn’t improve, contact the airline with the name of the attendant and your flight number. If possible, document the interaction with your phone. Right down specifically what is said, and get the names and contact info for any possible witnesses.

  • When things get really bad.

If you feel like a flight attendant is being unsafe or unjust, or if they threaten you with legal action, call the media and (the largest non-profit passenger advocacy group out there) before you get off the plane. If possible have the media waiting when the flight arrives, and do whatever possible to keep the flight crew from knowing. Depending on the circumstances, there may be criminal or civil charges that can be filed, so consider speaking with the authorities or a lawyer.

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