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

Galley Gossip: A flight attendant responds to the first class orange juice debacle

If you haven’t already heard, there was some sort of debacle involving a flight attendant and a glass of orange juice on an American Airlines flight recently. I read about the story first on the Consumerist web site. Wait, take that back, I tried to read the article but couldn’t quite make it through due to the fact that the story was just way too over the top with emotion and drama. It was! But they usually are whenever there’s a flight attendant or an airline involved. Haven’t you noticed?

Then when I heard our very own Annie Scott had covered the same story here, I dreaded pulling it up. I really didn’t want to read it. Only because airline bashing seems to be a new sport and…well…I knew it couldn’t be good. But I took a deep breath and began reading Annie’s post anyway. Two seconds later I found myself laughing because Annie’s right, your mother would tell you to go get your own dang orange juice! And I’m glad she brought up that old magazine ad featured along with the Consumerist post. That was the first thing that turned me off about the article. I mean what the heck were they thinking using a milf-y photograph of a stewardess curled up in a chair? Really, I need to know.

Anyway, here’s my response to David and what he had to say about what went down on that crazy American Airlines flight from Sacramento to Dallas…

Dear David,

Slow your roll. By my arithmetic, you and your group of 130 people fly 27,300 trips collectively. Each of you having a unique traveling experience based upon where you’re sitting and who your flight attendant is. I would love to have one bad experience for every 27,300 legs I’ve flown. I would say you and your group have had a good run. And now I must welcome you with open arms to the human race. I can’t imagine that you have gone through an entire career without once having a bad day.

Whoever Helen was, it’s obvious she needs a day off. Maybe even a medical type intervention. She’s obviously off her game. Instead of complaining, whispering, and giving her the feeling that a mutiny is about to take place, being the frequent flier that you are, you should have known that this was not normal behavior – from not just a flight attendant, but from anyone in the service industry. You and your group would have done Helen a favor by reporting her irrational behavior to someone in a position of authority at American Airlines instead of continuing on with your flight.

I, too, have noticed a decline in customer service on most every airline, not just American. I also know that flight attendants have longer duty days and shorter rest periods so that airlines can maximize their profits and provide you and your group with cheap three hundred-dollar tickets. This while our compensation remains the same and we’re all just lucky to have a job. Flight attendants work ten hour days without a break, not even a meal, yet any type of complaining to the airline by an employee may guarantee a front row seat at the front of the unemployment line. That’s the way it is these days.

If I were the passenger who had asked for orange juice and the flight attendant gave me what boils down to a federal warning with criminal and civil penalties, I would have insisted that police or gate personnel meet the flight. I would have also asked that my cabin mates confirm her irrational and abusive behavior. While I agree it was absurd that the flight attendant issued a written warning in this situation, don’t kid yourself, David, those terrorists, the ones you mentioned, very well could be sitting right next to you in first class drinking orange juice.


A Flight Attendant

Photos courtesy of Justin Timperio and Paalia

OJ scandal! Has American Airlines lost their minds?

American Airlines is in the throes of an OJ scandal — but it’s not about OJ Simpson. No. It’s about everyone’s favorite breakfast delight: Orange juice.

On December 6th, a man in first class asked a flight attendant for a glass of orange juice and got a temper tantrum. David Koss, a fellow passenger, witnessed the debacle and wrote a lengthy and well-reasoned letter to The Consumerist, who published it alongside an old magazine ad with an AA stewardess curled in a chair next to the words: “Think of her as your mother.”

Your mother would probably tell you to get your own dang orange juice, right?

Well, the flight attendant, Helen (according to Koss), took it further than that. She allegedly began with “This must be your first time in first class” (totally inappropriate), and he responded that he was actually a ten year Executive Platinum flier. Then she blew up on him — and actually woke David Koss, who tells the first part of the story second-hand — and stormed up to the front of the plane. Soon after, she got testy with the passengers talking about the explosion. “We were actually nervous to be in the presence of such an unstable individual,” comments Koss.

Then, taking it still further, Helen came back to the OJ man …

“with a written warning she said was from the captain. It stated that he may be in violation of Federal Law for ‘Threatening, intimidating, or interfering with a crewmember (section 91.11).’ She said, ‘I didn’t want to have to do this in front of every one, but here you go.’ According to the document, he could be put in prison for asking for his orange juice.”

After descending, Koss and his fellow passengers were met at the gate by an airline representative who informed them that “the Feds would probably have to investigate due to this warning being issued;” apparently those slips are a “big deal.”

Normally we’d say that this was obviously the result of a single individual coming undone (Koss notes that she was clearly “already having a very bad day”) and not really a reflection on the airline (every office has a screw loose now and again), but Koss concludes his letter with:

“This woman’s behavior is completely unacceptable and is a perfect example of what I’ve been seeing in AA flight attendants for years now. They don’t want to be there, make up their own rules that don’t reflect the company, and have huge disdain for the people paying their salary … the customers.”

What do you think? Do you find the flight attendants on American Airlines different from other airlines? Do you feel disdained? Discuss.

UPDATE: Learn what Heather Poole, Gadling’s resident flight attendant, thinks about this!

UPDATE 2: The man who ordered the OJ responds.