Yesterday I wrote about an incident on Delta Air Lines in which an off-duty flight attendant become so “bombed” onboard (after consuming five cans of wine) that she kissed and grabbed the butt of her seatmate without consent and also vaped onboard. But the real heart of this story is how another flight attendant tried to protect her and could lose his job for doing so.
Flight Attendants Protect Their Own: A Case Study On Delta
I’ve been flying over 100,000 miles per year for nearly two decades now and this aviation-focused blog will celebrate its 15th anniversary next year. Over that time and through those many miles, I have met many flight attendants. Several have become friends. Many more have given me remarkable insight into the life of a flight attendant and the relationship between union and management. Some are the sources of many of the “inside baseball” items I write about on Live And Let’s Fly.
At least in the USA and Western Europe, flight attendants are no longer just young women starting their careers, but a cadre of men and women, many of whom have other careers and fly on the side for fun or for flight benefits. They are educated, talented, and mature, bringing an added skillset to the skies.
There’s a certain brotherhood and sisterhood when it comes to being a flight attendant that I view as a two-edged sword. It’s actually quite a beautiful thing to see such a diverse group of people come together with work so well together (generally, not always) on the basis of their shared uniform. And many flight attendants are simply fun to be around.
On the other hand, there is a tendency among flight attendants to protect one another without reservation, a fascinating phenomenon and one that can be quite destructive.
The Delta Case
Delta flight attendant John Riss was just being kind. It’s how flight attendants take care of their own. When he saw his colleague Abigail Trebnick-Emerson flying non-rev on a flight from Las Vegas to Minneapolis he or his colleague hooked her up with free drinks.
Only Trebnick-Emerson did not know how to pace herself. After consuming two cans of wine, she had two more. In the process, she became drunk and assaulted her seatmate.
Rather than put the brakes on the alcohol, she was served a fifth can of wine.
Panic ensued on the ground, though, when the female passenger reported Trebnick-Emerson.
Take a look at the Facebook Messenger exchange between Trebnick-Emerson and Riss, filed as part of the lawsuit against Delta and the off-duty flight attendant:
TLDR: I told them I saw nothing and served you no alcohol, but you kissed the woman and were really drunk.
Fascinating, isn’t it? It isn’t clear to me how these screenshots were obtained in the first place.
Riss has put his own job on the line to protect Trebnick-Emerson. From his words, it appears he covered for her, saying he had no knowledge of physical contact onboard between the off-duty flight attendant and the passenger next to her. It is not clear if he was the one who served her alcohol or if it was just his colleague, but that may be another part of the “cover-up” and give the plaintiff more ammo that Delta is guilty of negligence.
This does not seem to be a situation like Sleepers, the 1996 movie in which Father “Bobby” Carillo (played by Robert De Niro) is faced with the moral dilemma of having to lie on the stand to protect a group of boys from physical abuse. I don’t see the moral dilemma here…
This is a fascinating case not just because of what occurred but because of how flight attendants appeared to have worked together to cover it up. In my experience, this is not at all surprising. Sometimes, though, we mess up, and trying to protect a co-worker who is guilty of clear wrongdoing seems quite shameful to me.
image: Delta Air Lines