Galley Gossip: The first class / orange juice passenger responds to what happened in flight

My Galley Gossip post, a flight attendant responds to the first class orange juice debacle, created quite a flurry of comments from people venting their frustrations out on flight attendants. Many readers accused me of defending Helen, the flight attendant mentioned in the letter published on the Consumerist web site. But I did not defend Helen. As a matter of fact, if the story is true, I think Helen needs time off until her issues are sorted out.

That said, I did defend flight attendants in general. At the end of the letter the witness to the orange juice incident transfers his anger from Helen on to flight attendants in general over the last twenty years. I’ve been a flight attendant for over fifteen years and I take pride in my job, as does so many of my colleagues whom provide excellent customer service on a regular bases. It saddens me that one bad apple can affect so many people.

Now this story was originally brought to light by David Koss, the passenger who wrote the letter to the Consumerist. He sat behind the passenger who ordered the orange juice, witnessing the entire debacle first hand. No one deserves to be treated badly – passengers and flight attendants alike. But I’m a firm believer that there are always two sides to every story, so who knows what really went down on that flight!

Now imagine my surprise, while scanning the comments under my post, when I found this, an actual response from the passenger directly involved in the incident…I am the airline passenger whose request for orange juice has caused so much internet traffic. Although the vast majority of the responses on the blogs have been overwhelmingly supportive of me, I’m surprised and disappointed at a few of them that have actually been empathetic towards the flight attendant. If I wrote everything that happened on that flight, my own response would be longer than most people would care to read. Thus, I’d like to point out a few facts for the time being:

1) Before that ill-fated flight, I had never even met the writer of the article that has caused so much internet discussion. He would have absolutely no reason to lie or embellish a story about someone he’d never met.

2) A passenger seated across from me later told an AA representative that at least four passengers had issues with this flight attendant, and added that I “happened to be the unlucky guy she exploded on.”

3) Every single passenger in my row as well as in the row behind me (thus, the only passengers that could see what transpired) all walked off the plane with me in unison when I was told that I’d have to meet with an AA representative at the arrival gate. At least two of them without my even asking volunteered to be witnesses for me.

4) All 6+ of these passengers/witnesses not only passionately defended me to the AA rep. at the gate, but all of them stayed to talk with her for at least 30 minutes. Most of them had either connecting flights or important places to go. (I’d like to ask the readers of this blog a question. If this type of thing had happened to you, even if you were totally “in the right”, what are the chances that every passenger in your section of the plane would walk off with you in unison and spend 30-60 minutes of their valuable time defending you to an AA representative.)

5) One passenger was so unnerved by her intimidating behavior that he told the AA representative that if this flight attendant was working his connecting flight, he would not board the plane.

6) My witnesses are not stressed-out, snotty businessmen as some have wondered about. Almost all of them belong to a women’s religious group that promotes peace. One could not have assembled a group of people that was more deferential and polite than this group.

7) Not only has AA already called me to profusely apologize, but they have called other passengers on that flight as well to apologize. I know of at least two others on that flight that have filed complaints with AA regarding incidents that were either partially or totally unrelated to my own.

8) I wanted to have this incident quickly fade away, and I diligently avoided engaging this flight attendant for the rest of the trip. The incident itself was not all that eventful. What was disturbing was that the flight attendant spent the rest of the flight attempting to get other passengers to testify for her regarding what had happened. As each passenger in my section individually told her that they disagreed with her version of the incident, the flight attendant progressively grew angrier and more determined to turn a “molehill into a mountain”.

9) For the readers of the article who think this flight attendant was just “having a bad day” and should be left alone, please remember that she handed me a formal warning that threatened potential legal action. The Customer Service Manager who met all of us at the arrival gate stated that while he was shocked by the story we all told in unison, also mentioned that the warning letter was a serious matter that had to be investigated by multiple entities. I ask the readers of this blog how they’d react after being told that by this Senior Manager, especially if they had literally millions of frequent flyer miles with this airline, as I do.

I’m happy to hear that the airline not only dealt with the situation immediately, but also apologized to those who witnessed what happened. As for passengers showing so much support to a fellow cabin mate, I’ve seen it time and time again. It does happen. More often than you’d think. Whenever something out of the ordinary happens on a flight – whether it be to the crew or to another passenger – there’s always a special bond that forms between those who were once strangers. It’s always nice to know that people really do care about others. I’m glad the “orange juice” passnger wrote in and set the record straight. I know many of you had questions, as did I. Something tells me we won’t be hearing Helen’s side of the story. That’s probably a good thing. Hope your next flight is a good one!

So….any chance there’s a passenger out there who might actually have a good airline / flight attendant story to share?

Photos courtesy of kappuru and thezipper