Galley Gossip: A flight attendant responds to Senator Schumer’s outburst

No one likes to be told what to do.

After the announcement had been made to turn off and stow all electronic devices, a flight attendant noticed Senator Schumer still chatting away on his cell phone and asked him to turn it off. He complied, but not without a fight. He argued that because the aircraft door had not been shut at the time of the announcement he was entitled to use the phone. The flight attendant, who was reported by as being polite throughout the incident, told Schumer that she didn’t make the rules, just followed them, and with that she walked away. That’s when Senator Schumer made a big time passenger faux pas. He turned to his seat mate, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and uttered the B_word under his breath.

I can’t help but wonder what Senator Kirsten Gillibrand had to think of Senator Schumer’s childish behavior. Especially at the ease in which the word was used!

While I understand that passengers don’t like to be ordered around, especially on an airplane by a lowly flight attendant who should know the customer is always right even when that customer is breaking an FAA regulation, this story is really much deeper than that. It’s about respect – or lack thereof. The airplane is a microcosm of the world and the Senator’s outburst is just another example of how society behaves today. Take it from me, the one stuck in a flying tube for hours on end with passengers from all walks of life, it’s a me-me-me, A.D.D world out there. Don’t believe me? Pay attention next time.

When I heard Brian Fallon, Senator Schumer’s spokesperson, had stated that the senator regrets making the “off-the-cuff comment,” I wondered if the Senator would have thought twice about what he’d said if the story hadn’t made headlines? Doubt it. Oh and did you notice that nothing was mentioned in terms of an apology regarding the use of his cell phone at a time when it was not permitted, which is what triggered the outburst in the first place? I’m not surprised.

Want to know what I love most about this story?

This type of bad behavior over nonsense is just a regular part of my work day. Flight attendants constantly have to remind passengers, and re-remind them, and then re-remind them again, to turn off their phones. Passengers usually respond by either out right ignoring us or by hiding the device under their thigh until the flight attendant has passed and it is safe to resume the conversation. Last month on a flight from New York to Dallas, I had to tell fourteen passengers – fourteen! – that it was time to turn off and put away their electronic devices after a PA had been delivered not once, but twice! I even had to firmly tap, tap, tap a man on the shoulder, a man with his head shoved between his knees, in order to inform him that I was well aware he wasn’t conversing with the floor. His seatmates chuckled. The passenger just glared at me.

On another flight I witnessed the following conversation take place in first class…

FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Excuse me, Sir, it’s time to-

PASSENGER: Can’t you see I’m on the phone, bitch!

I couldn’t believe my ears! I was even more shocked at what happened next. The flight attendant actually acted like it was no big deal someone had just called her a bitch and even left the passenger alone to finish his conversation. Maybe the flight attendant was just used to being treated like crap and therefore thought nothing of it. Perhaps the flight attendant was a fan of the passengers work and figured the well-known rapper meant nothing by the word used so often in lyrics. But could it be that this kind of reaction by a flight attendant is why so many passengers feel they can bark at us and get what they want? Who knows. All I know is if I went around calling passengers bitches whenever I didn’t like what they had to say, I’d be out of a job. And apologizing about it after the fact would not make it okay.

Photos courtesy of Propublica and Kaiban