Flight Attendant Abuse

By The Flying Pinto

A woman who didn’t like the meal she was served decided to throw the meal at the flight attendant serving her. If you haven’t yet heard the story you can find the full account here: “Vegetarian Throws Airline Meal at Flight Attendant”

This story doesn’t shock me, I’ve had similar experiences. You’d be amazed at what doesn’t make the news. I worked a flight just last week, as the aisle flight attendant in first class. We had a 9pm departure on a two hour and ten minute flight. I took orders in first class shortly after take off. The passenger in 1A seemed pleasant enough, we exchanged hellos and he told me he’d like a beer.  As I said thank you and started to move on to 1B he interrupted me and said, “excuse me, will there be dinner on this flight?” when I told him no, his entire demeanor changed and as he stared straight into my eyes he said, “F**K**G (insert my airline here)!” I’m pretty certain most of the first class cabin heard him. Nobody reacted or said anything. I didn’t know how to respond. I handled it by smiling, apologizing and reminding him that it was 9:00pm. He was well behaved the rest of the flight.

I’m great at diffusing a situation, I see it as a challenge and I do it so that the rest of my civilized, well behaved passengers don’t have to be inconvenienced over one fool….never mind the paper work that goes with it!

So, I ask you when is it abuse? Where is the line? Should a flight attendant put up with verbal abuse, but not physical? Should passengers be able to curse at you? Why do so many people misbehave on airplanes? I was disappointed to hear the flight attendant mentioned in the article did not press charges. I definitely think that sends the wrong message. Would love to hear your thoughts!



  1. Maybe I would have said to the woman “Ma’am…is everything okay? I understand you may be used to a certain level of quality with your dining choices, however this is the vegetarian option provided today. Perhaps you could try the option so you could give us specific feedback to improve our vegetarian selections in the future- Consider it a food critique. Unfortunately you chose to dispose of the last meal all over my stylish blue polyester uniform so we the only suggestion we can provide to our catering department is that the meal’s appearance was distasteful to the passenger. Is there anything specifically you would like to suggest about the appearance of the meal? We welcome your thoughts and I’m here to listen. If you prefer you can write them down and give them to me to pass along to my supervisor.”

    Maybe that’s too nice considering the humiliation. But it would have certainly put her in her place.

    If she wanted to argue beyond that- that’s when I would tell her “Ma’am we are not going to have any discussion about this beyond ways to improve the vegetarian selection for our future customers. Your behavior in throwing your meal at a crew-member may be in violation of Federal Law. So we can either go down the legal road or you can offer suggestions to improve our product so that others may benefit from this embarrassing situation and we can all forget about it. It’s your choice.”

    I don’t really know though….because I wasn’t there. I only have the media’s accounts of the incident- and we all know how things get blown out of proportion.

  2. OMG. I think swearing at a flight attendant should be grounds for removal from aircraft. Didn’t the man look at his booking and see if it just said snack or meal? Where is personal responsibility anymore? How childish. I think Mr 1A First class should have been removed from plane. That should be the law!

    And I’m telling you. I have heard similar stories of vegetarians. Lack of amino acids makes them angry. Can’t make all the calming neurotransmitters when nutrient deficient. That’s why we went back to eating some organic meat!

    Miss you! Let’s catch up soon. Lots of news!

  3. I’ll let the cursing go once, but the second time I definitely say something. I just let them know that while I’m here to help, swearing at me is not appropriate and until they are willing to speak to me in a civil manner I’ll have to continue serving others.

    99% of the time they apologise and we can get to the bottom of what the problem really is!

  4. Bob Morgan @ 2011-03-23 22:02

    Should the standards be symmetrical?

    Should a flight attendant be forced to leave the plane for being impolite to a passenger?

    What about not serving people in first class only because they look like they were “upgraded”. What about when you are a first class passenger but wearing jeans and having not slept for 2 day because you were working on a deal? What about not responding to calls – when your kid just vomited all over the place? What about telling you to sit (no seat belt light) because they are too busy talking to get you napkins. What about leaving a passenger on the plane? These things have happened too often.

    What about threating passengers with arrest because the flight attendant is not doing their job and the passenger knows it and is only asking for normal appropriate professional service?

    I vote for symmetrical. Yes drunken or abusive passengers should be met by the police. Impolite unprofessional flight attendantes should be met by HR with a pink slip. Than way the passenger might behave better.

    Over the years, HR would have been there often.

  5. Honestly, that passenger swearing at you like that would have been kind of upsetting to me as a fellow passenger. I think airlines need to take into account that aggressive passengers don’t just disturb the flight crew (which is bad enough in itself) but it also gives other passengers a bad experience.

  6. Thee is no excuse for a passenger to be abusive to an FA or fellow passenger. It may sound extreme but yes an abusive passenger must be removed from an aircraft because they set an ugly mood in the cabin that affects FAs and may detract from their carrying out their primary duties, safety and security. Having said that, whatever action an FA or the captain might take has to be coordinated and accepted by airline management. Union negotiations should address this issue and not only remunerations and benefits. The airline should set agreed guidelines to support and protect their crews.
    Pressing charges especially in an outstation is a complicated issue with no added value, offloading should be sufficient.
    As for a rude FA I am sure most airlines have disciplinary actions available to deal with such issues.

  7. when i was a flight attendant, if something like that i would hand them a paper that was printed from my airline warning them that their behavior would not be tolerated and it was a warning that they could face legal consquences when landing if they continued their behavior. they would be given that paper.