It’s a challenging time to be cabin crew. Being verbally abused, shouted and screamed at has always been one of the perils of our career. We literally come in to contact with hundreds of people every single day, so chances are there is bound to be some form of conflict eventually. You simply cannot please everyone.
As if our job wasn’t difficult enough, we now live in an age where passengers, armed with their iPhone cameras, are filming every minuscule incident and sharing it across social media. Before long said video has gone viral and EVERYONE has an opinion on a poor quality, few minute long clip.
But there’s always two sides to every story. The problem is that these videos rarely show OUR side.
On April 9, 2017 a “disruptive and belligerent” (as described by United CEO Oscar Munoz), 69-year old Asian man was dragged off an overbooked United Airlines flight. Video footage quickly emerged from inside the plane of Mr David Dao being forcibly removed from his seat before being dragged down the aisle, visibly injured and utterly humiliated. It is difficult to watch.
But what this video didn’t show, was the airlines staff simply doing their jobs. The crew was forced to call security agents to remove a passenger in Chicago, due to a last-minute need to transport some of their crew to operate out of Louisville the next day. The flight attendants were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Either four people already seated, had to leave the plane; or a flight the next day would be grounded due to the lack of crew, affecting even more paying customers.
The video also failed to show Mr Dao, who was originally quietly escorted off the aircraft, running back on minutes later, clinging to his seat and chanting “I need to go home”. Would you want a passenger who had essentially stormed the aircraft to travel on your flight? I don’t think so.
One passenger who posted the video an Audra D. Bridges described how she and her fellow passengers were all “shaky and so disgusted”. So shaky and disgusted that not one of them volunteered to take Mr Dao’s place and offload themselves. So shaky and disgusted that instead of helping Mr Dao, they sat and filmed the incident and posted it all over social media; then sat back, relaxed and enjoyed their flight to Louisville. Hypocrites? I think so.
Since then, Airport security officer James Long has given his version of events, claiming that Mr. Dao’s injuries were actually self-inflicted. Long said he boarded the flight after being called in response to a disturbance involving two people regarding a refusal to leave the aircraft. He said he approached Dr. David Dao to ask him to get off the plane.
Long said Dao refused and ‘folded his arms tightly’. Long then reached out to ‘hold’ Dao and was able to pull him away from his window seat on the aircraft and move toward the aisle.
‘But suddenly the subject started flailing and fighting,’ Long wrote. Dao then pushed Long’s hand off his arm, causing the struggle where Dao fell and hit his mouth on an arm rest on the other side of the aisle. He claims that he then dragged Dao off the plane as he refused to stand up.
Long said he was able to remove Dao from the airplane, and that once on the airbridge he got up off the floor and ran back onto the aircraft. Long alleges Dao, while running back to the plane, said that they’d have to kill him to get him off the flight.
Two sides to every story.
Then on April 21, all hell broke loose onboard American Airlines flight AA591 from San Francisco to Dallas Fort Worth; when a crew member (once again simply doing their job), was vilified after a fight almost broke out between said crew member and a passenger over the removal of a pushchair. Once again the whole sorry incident was caught on camera.
What the 2 minute, 44-second video doesn’t show or explain, is the full reason behind why this incident occurred. Hand luggage, as we all know, is an ever-growing issue for airlines. There simply isn’t enough room onboard for what everyone brings with them. According to American Airlines contract of carriage, pushchairs/strollers must be checked in at the gate. So not only was there no room onboard for the stroller, it wasn’t allowed on the aircraft in the first place.
Other witnesses have since said how the mother boarded the flight “Pushing a car seat type stroller with one child in it, carrying a second child on her hip and dragging behind a very large folded stroller that was too big for the overhead bin or to go under a seat”. When the crew member calmly told the lady that there was no where for the pushchair to go, the lady began screaming at him.
“The flight attendant evidently decided she was not fit to be on the flight and started to move her and her children towards the front of the plane. The woman decided she was not going any further and this is when the flight attendant picked up the stroller and lifted it over his head to try to move past the woman. As he was doing this she pushed him and the stroller fell and struck her in the face. She began crying loudly and dramatically. Shortly after this is where the video begins”, a video that shows none of the build up to the subsequent drama.
Surain Adyanthaya, the passenger who uploaded the footage to Facebook said “AA Flight attendant violently took a stroller from a lady with her baby on my flight, hitting her and just missing the baby. Then he tried to fight a passenger who stood up for her”.
The passenger who ‘stood up for her’ had been sat at the front of the aircraft. Another witness said “The first class passenger inserted himself into the drama with his faux chivalry, but clearly had no idea what had transpired in the back of the plane, since he was in a window seat in the first class section and could not have viewed the incident from his seat”. Clearly this man had no idea what had been going on and there really was no need for him to get involved.
The male passenger then went on to threaten the crew member saying “Hey bud – you do that to me and i’ll knock you flat”. Yet passenger Adyanthaya claims the flight attendant had ‘tried to fight’ this man. Seems to me he was simply trying to protect himself from a disruptive passenger. Personally, I would have offloaded them for such threatening behaviour.
The witness went on to say “The flight attendant was put in a horrible situation by a passenger that most people in my immediate area thought seemed unstable. She escalated the situation, not him. In my opinion, the first class passenger should have been removed. Had the flight been in progress he might very well have been arrested upon landing for threatening a crew member. I agree the flight attendant may have reacted too harshly in responding to the threatening customer in first class, but his actions with the woman in question were professional throughout the ordeal. I am disappointed American has chosen to punish him”.
Two sides to every story.
What people NEED to remember is that in both of these incidents the crew caught on camera were just doing their jobs; jobs that as airlines staff their aircraft with the minimum number of required flight attendants, are getting increasingly difficult to do.
Not that flying is a pleasant experience for passengers either, 9/11 changed all that. To get back to profitability, airlines added seats, shrinking leg room and cutting amenities. The rise of the low-cost carriers, who stripped away any remaining ‘glamour’, was further validated by passengers who used price-comparison sites to find the cheapest flight. More recently, mergers which have led to consolidation in the industry, means consumers have far less choice on who they can fly with. This all leads to irate passengers, with us caught in the middle.
It’s so easy for passengers to blame cabin crew or gate staff when something goes wrong. We are after all the ‘face of our airline’. And now, what passengers perceive as poor customer service, is punishable by this public shaming across social media.
Derek Thompson of theatlantic.com made a valid point about the relationship between cabin crew, passengers and the airlines, “Customers and crew could be united against the airlines’ profit obsession. But in reality, nobody else is fighting for more or better-paid crew members—not passengers, who’d prefer cheap flights, nor airlines, who’d like to maximize the profitability of each seat. The last two weeks show that crew members are still set up for public shaming. They are stuck between corporations that have no scruples about turning flying into a Dickensian experience and passengers who are willing to become ad-hoc documentarian of the petty abuses of the industry”.
Cabin crew have the best interests of our passengers at the centre of our minds at all times. You are the reason we do this job. Sadly, many seem to see us as the ‘enemy’, intent on making their experience onboard a hellish one.
Believe it or not we are you friends, not your enemies. We understand how frustrating the whole flying experience can be, we are passengers ourselves sometimes you know.
We too would love to live in a world where everything works like clockwork, where nothing goes wrong, where there are no delays, loads of space onboard for your hand luggage, no queues in security etc. Sadly life, as we all know, is not like that.
This rise in animosity towards cabin crew, passengers playing the victim and the endless sense of entitlement HAS TO STOP.
Please remember ladies and gentlemen…..
‘Your cabin crew are onboard to save your arse, not kiss it’
And dollies please be careful in these types of situation. I would hate for some one-sided, poorly filmed videos from some self-righteous self-loading freight, to cost anyone their job. A job we all work so hard to get.
Never has the saying ‘Same shit different uniform’ been so true. Now more than ever, we trolley dollies need to stick together.
Stay safe up there x
© confessionsofatrolleydolly.com by Dan Air.