This is a really sad story and shows that even customer-friendly Southwest Airlines has power-tripping flight attendants.
After a three-hour mechanical delay, a man was ejected after jokingly asking a flight attendant if the water being handed out was vodka.
That’s literally it.
I figured there had to be more to the story, but eyewitness accounts fully back up the passenger. Peter Uzelac was seated next to the ejected passenger and shared what happened.
Southwest Flight 478 a “direct” flight from Sacramento (SMF) to Austin (AUS) with a ground stop in Los Angeles (LAX), encountered a maintenance issue upon pushback in Sacramento. That escalated into a multi-hour delay. About three hours into the delay, FAs came down the aisles offering water.
The ejected passenger said:
They should be passing out vodka because we’ve been waiting so long.
A flight attendant overhead his comment and responded:
I don’t think that and I didn’t like your joke.
Another passenger chimed in:
Look it, we’ve been on this plane for hours!
The flight attendant responded:
Well, so have I, so get used to it.
The FA then proceeded to call the cockpit and ask the captain to return the flight to the gate. Sheriff’s deputies met the flight and escorted the man up. Many, according to Uzelac, stood up to defend the passenger, insisting he had done nothing wrong.
But the passenger was kicked off. Unsurprisingly, he was not charged with any crime.
Southwest’s response is a big shrug:
We regret any less-than-positive experience a customer has onboard our aircraft. We welcome over 100 million customers each year, and we aim to maintain the comfort of all while delivering Southwest hospitality. We will share this report with our Customer Relations Team.
Power-tripping flight attendants do not belong in the air. Maybe there is more to this story than meets the eye, but I doubt it…watch the local news report above. Extended flight delays bring out the worst in all of us. But a flight attendant, placed in a position of trust, must never take out frustration on the passenger.
whew, thank goodness Matthew is a voice of reason in the age of twitter and Instagram mob mentality that always rushes to judgement (just like how they’ve stampeded over e8s5, blindly decrying “lazy writing” or “rushed” or “sexism”, instead of having some self-inspection wondering which shortcomings of their mental capacity is preventing them from comprehending the story, which is very different from actually condoning it)
@Henry LAX, honest question. Are you being facetious here? I’m missing the point – did some people blame the passenger?
Yes, ol’ Henry is trying to be facetious while showing off some major erudition. He tries too hard, though.
Meanwhile something similar happening on UA would be on constant rotation in the news cycle. This proves that Southwest’s veneer of being so “customer friendly” is just that – a veneer.
Agree. There are bad apples on Southwest too.
Apalling. Simply Apalling.
I cannot understand why in today’s world people just don’t shut up while on airplanes. Many years ago I decided that from the time I step in an airport to the time I step out of the other one I use that time to rest my vocal cords. I only say a word if I need to but I keep any conversation to the bare minimum. Usually the only words I use are “thank you” and “excuse me”. Other than that I am mute.
Once I was a flight that I said absolutely nothing at booking and from the time I arrived at the airport to when I left the arriving airport. That was a test about 15 years ago. I thought it was great! Online booking (a rarity then), kiosk check-in, smile at the FA instead of saying “hello”, no meal service, arrival. Silence is golden. Funny, I have tried that again after that.
**haven’t not have tried that again
That is exactly my strategy. If I don’t need to use my voice I save it. Also, I don’t need to make new friends on a plane. As soon as I seat I put my noise canceling headsets on and only take them of when I leave the plane. And you are correct, I smile to the FA once she/he makes eye contact but no words are necessary. I hunker down on my seat and nobody need to notice I am even there. Leave me alone and you limit potential problems.
This is precisely what’s wrong with the U.S. airline industry. If one is too frightened of saying the wrong thing to a flight attendant for fear of being ejected then there is a serious problem. And it is any wonder why international passengers opt to fly Asian or Middle Eastern carriers when they can… customers prefer to be treated like…. customers!
Agree. Aircraft, especially delayed ones, are charged situations, so it’s no wonder an FA over reacted, but it is still unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.
Based on the above report, the FA should be disciplined in the form of a written apology to the passenger, including stating that she/he was not acting in accordance with Southwest policy and compensate the passenger personally.
The passenger only said, according to this report, one significant sentence, “They should be passing out vodka because we’ve been waiting so long.”
The other passengers did not get kicked off, not even the one who said “Look it, we’ve been on this plane for hours!”
We, airline passengers, should come up with a standardized form of protest. My proposal: whenever a FA is an unreasonable dictator, we should snap to attention, salute and say firmly “Yes sir!” or “Yes ma’am!” depending on the gender that we think we see (sorry if you’re transgender and we get it wrong but we’ll try to get it right).
The act of a snappy salute and language that is not confrontation, we make a point. Satire or sarcasm is an interpretation and let’s leave it at that.
Right. So, the FA doesn’t think the joke is funny, overreacts and asks the captain to delay the flight and waste fuel in returning to the gate, and he/she does so, over THAT? Isn’t there supposed to be some rational reason to do that?
Everyone who had anything to do with this should be disciplined.
And whats up with the captain? He decided it was ok to delay the flight longer because a passanger asked for vodka? Did the FA feel he was gonna harm her? Did she feel he was gonna hurt someone else? Its starting to get really weird in this world…really weird.
I recall watching a reality show on UK’s easyjet where the owner of the airline bought an entire plane of passengers alcoholic drinks for a prolonged ground delay. So this scenario literally has happened. The “joke” was lame, but the flight attendant is in customer service and had no reason to take it personally let alone further delay and add to the costs of the airline, individual, airport and police by ejecting the passenger. Good grief, what is wrong with America?
That would be the color orange.
Southwest’s culture is dying — or perhaps is already dead. Their telephone customer service agents are rude and aggressive now. Their on-board service has declined.
I’m not joking: I’d rather fly Spirit.
Can’t say that I agree with this comment, both of the times that I’ve flown Southwest recently the FAs, gate agent, and phone agents were professional and provided decent service. The best part was that the flights were on-time, which is a nice contrast to flying UA out of SFO.
Herb just rolled in his grave. But he probably would have said in response…”Of course we threw him off, next time he better ask for Wild Turkey.”
This is a double-edged sword for the following:
First, the average passenger aboard any given transport aircraft fulfills the lowest common denominator. Post deregulation, the cycle of fare based competition has been met by steady reduction in both ethics and decorum making a Sunday afternoon experience at WalMart seemingly more refined. The ever growing public ideology of entitlement mixed with wilfully maintained ignorance has an effect on those charged with their care; i.e., flight attendants. There is simply a point when an otherwise jovial individual is no longer entertained by passenger misgivings and patience becomes lost. Let’s face it: there is no reason after 100 years of passenger air travel that it should take an hour to board an airplane.
So while a simple vodka reference is by no means grounds for removal, it is possible that it was simply the straw that broke the camels back after hours of dealing with an intellectually vapid atmosphere.
Second, flight attendants are not adequately trained to attend to needs that arise out of the aforementioned ignorance. They are trained to script as they are commonly hired without any associated background; simply put, the application process is akin to that of a Red Robin. Furthermore, some mistake the job as a career field and as the years progress become either stuck or unmotivated in terms of reinvention. This degrades personal morale as one realizes that what occupationally there is little yield in the way of both personal growth and public perception and that realization projects itself as aggression. In these cases the public is recipient.
While the cabin of an aircraft could just as easily be served by vending machines, flight attendants will exist so long as the travelling public maintains its collective dumbassedry upon crossing the airport boundary. Besides, pilots have acheived way too much to have to deal with your crap so the two of you need to find some way to get along.
Give her six months in prison for interfering with an aircraft ( by making it return to the gate in the same way Heather Cho did over the macadamia nuts). If the airlines can’t deal with these petty tyrants and martinets, then Federal authorities should do it for them. 6-12 in a low security facility would cure her of any tendency to want to ‘lord it over’ the traveling public.
That’s a little extreme but I like your idea
So surprising as, unlike other airlines, Southwest basically encourages repartee and jokes between staff and passengers. And I’ve been on more than one flight where FAs gave out free drinks after a major delay or other issue. Clearly an FA having a bad day.
I can’t remember the last seriously delayed WN flight I was on where the FA’s didn’t give out free drinks…
I am so disappointed with Southwest. They are so much better than this. How sad.
At lest SW corporate didn’t try to defend the flight attendant
Okay. So sat on the tarmac three hours & change, dude decided to make a GENERALISED joke, sharing humour (a High Virtue. No matter what people say) during a rather shite situation. The comment was “overheard” by a Flight Attendant, even gaining a “Second” from a different passenger/customer. FA asked the Capt to return to the gate where deputies met him. And S. West offers this bollocks as a token apology? Dude should sue, claim it was a “hate crime” citing a great⁴ grandparent’s third cousin.
This is ridiculous.
I quit flying when TSA took over. It has only gone down from there.
Many years ago I was travelling with my 12 year old daughter from Birmingham, AL to Baltimore via Nashville. We had to switch planes and upon boarding in Nashville discovered that the flight was extremely full. I told my daughter to grab the first available seat we came across and I had the brilliant idea of asking an FA if she could possibly help me find 2 seats together since I was flying with my child. This witch was busy flashing her tits to 3 apparently well-lubricated sloths and her condescending response was “Are you trying to cause a problem?” At that moment I truly felt as though I was reliving a scene from the film ‘Anger Management’.
Although seething, I kept my cool and replied ‘No – I was simply asking if she would possibly help me, but that the decision was entirely up to her.’ She stated a second time “I believe you’re trying to cause a problem.” and I honestly couldn’t tell if she was being serious, or if she was just joking around. However, to me the situation was getting a bit too dicey and I could easily imagine being kicked off the plane. I said ‘You know, on second thought, thanks anyway’ and to just forget that I had ever asked for her assistance. The FA turned back to her 3 drooling idiots and I found a seat about 15 rows behind my daughter. During the flight I went assured her that everything would be okay and that once we arrived in Baltimore she was to wait for me in the air-bridge, just outside the door of the plane. The entire flight she was scared to death and I was seething. After that experience, I vowed to never fly Southwest again if there’s a reasonable alternative. And to the best of my recollection I don’t think I have. So it’s no surprise to me this kind of crap happens on SA.
Maybe it was the same flight attendant!
Question: I heard something that flight attendants are only paid when the flight is actually in the air. Is this true? That FAs are not paid if the plane is sitting on the tarmac? Regardless, the FA should not take her frustration out on paying customers.
There are three things that I noticed:
1) No viral videos — was everybody afraid to record the incident because she was on such a power trip? Were they afraid of being next?
2) No leaked memo — like the “reaccommodate” debacle after the United dragging incident. I’m curious what is being said internally at Southwest.
3) No follow up statement from Southwest after their initial corporate-speak statement
Both flight and cabin crews are paid when the airplane blocks out; that is, when the airplane’s parking brake is initially released for the purpose of flight. If this airplane was required to return to the gate for passenger deplanement, then this flight attendant was indeed on the clock.
Sorry Matt, I still cannot believe this is the whole story. That sounds like something I would say on a plane and probably have. However SWA’s silence has me wondering if they really do have a loose cannon rolling down the aisles and this guy just happened to be in the line of fire when she went off. I would think too that the PIC would have at least inquired as to the reason a passenger is being put off, but maybe they’ve segregated responsibility for the cabin to the FA’s