Airline cabin crew abuse of power

Once again, a family has been kicked off a flight, this time for refusing to give up their toddler’s seat.

This was a lie. They also lied, saying that the man and his wife would go to prison for a ‘federal offence’, and their children would be sent to foster care.

It seems that these incidents have been increasing for the past several years. In many instances, the passengers are unruly. Rules are there for everyone’s safety, and as a pilot I support the notion that the crew are in charge. But it just seems to me that more people are being kicked off for very minor, or even non-existent, infractions. It seems like some cabin crew are on power trips.

What do you think?

<<That is at odds with Delta’s published advice, which says that for children under two years “we recommend you purchase a seat on the aircraft and use an approved child safety seat”. The company’s advice says an infant under two may be held in a parent’s lap if they choose.

The FAA’s website also “strongly urges” parents to put young children in a safety device in their own seat.>>

They should at least know what the heck they’re talking about before escalating things that far!
<<One crew member initially told him that his other son owned the seat so the toddler could not sit there.>>

But they had no problem letting other overbooked people take the seat which “belonged to” the other son. :smack:

Agreed. But I was only using this incident as an example. What I’m really interested in is whether more cabin crews are on power trips now.

I suspect that it’s horrible pressure from above, combined with the climate since 9/11 that air crew can do anything. Obviously they need to be able to take control when there is a security issue, but this is just another time where corporate earnings trump common sense.

And Delta is really stupid to have not changed its policies in light of United’s adventure.

They have come to realize that with cell phones that you can’t get away with bad behavior now. That needs to be drilled into any person who deals with the public.

I find it difficult to believe that this many cabin crews (and occasionally cops) behave as they do when virtually everyone has a camera. Considering this sort of thing happens so often despite them knowing that they might be filmed, I don’t think that their behavior will change. We’ll probably see airlines confiscating phones en mass so there are no more videos sooner than we see a marked decrease in power trips by their personnel.

Actually, while the situation was very poorly handled I think the airline was correctly enforcing a ticketing policy that is pretty deeply baked into the ticketing system.

Airline tickets are not transferable. Its been that way for a long time. Actually, I remember a time when you could cheat and transfer the ticket to someone of the same gender but that was a long time ago, before they even checked ID’s. Unless that man is a very inexperienced traveler I don’t know why he thought he could give that seat to someone else whose name wasn’t on the ticket. Even if that someone else was his kid. Even if that someone else was a baby.

It has nothing to do with car seat policy. If John Doe doesn’t show up for his flight, the airline gets the seat back. The person that paid for the seat can’t give it to Joe Doe. This man made a mistake when he sent his older child ahead. He may have thought it was a good idea at the time but he should’ve known better.

If you could transfer tickets the entire purchasing and pricing structure of air travel would be different.

I don’t know that this is a new problem. I saw virtually the EXACT same thing happen on a flight about 8 years ago - except in that case the guy thought he could have his wife hold both kiddies while he flew in peace several rows away.

But the attendant told him he couldn’t do that. There can only be one “lap baby” per row. It has to do with the number of oxygen masks in the row.

The guy pushed back and was removed from the flight. Even after he relented.

On another occasion, the flight attendant moved a handicapped passenger to a bulkhead seat and attempted to reseat the ticket holder when he was among the last to board ( this was back in the day when all coach seat carried the same price ). The passenger told the attendant he wanted “his” seat and kind of pushed him. The guy was thrown off.

It’s a tough situation. Air travel is stressful and people get edgy and its real easy to fall over the edge when things go downhill. Frankly, I don’t blame the airline for refusing to carry passengers that act belligerently. It may be an overabundance of caution but so is every other airline safety policy.

Yes, I will agree that the flight crews often escalate the situation and should be better trained. But its a horrid job, the pay is low (often insanely low on the regional airlines) and the schedule is crazy and they generally don’t get paid at all for things like waiting for delayed flights.

I’ve gotten really angry during air travel, I think I nonce described an incident where a gate agent called me to the desk, asked to see my boarding pass then took it and refused to give it back ( they were considering flying with a less than full flight because of flight weight and adverse weather). I was furious but I managed to control myself. I eventually was allowed on the flight.

The other son forfeited the seat by not showing up. The seat was not transferable. Not even to another family member. When the other son didn’t show up the seat reverted back to the airline. I’m sorry this guy didn’t know how air travel works but its not exactly an obscure policy.

According to media reports a gate agent told them it was OK (and if not it’s hard to see how they’d been let on). So the combination of employees were giving them a different story which isn’t a good customer service practice either. Then on top the employee on the plane clearly misstated the FAA rule as part of trying to cajole/bully the customer, plus the cop-show-like ‘you’re kids will be in foster care’ to try to bully people.

I really don’t get the mentality which doesn’t see what infuriates people about this kind of airline behavior (not sure if you’re one of those who don’t get that). None of these incidents are necessarily a matter of believing the customer was 100% right. You could argue the passenger should never have asked the gate agent if it was OK to switch from one kid to another, or to have kept in mind the gate agent might be full of crap and just back down when another employee changed the airline’s answer. It still doesn’t make most people any less disgusted with airline employees acting like some kind of ‘bad cop’ w/ ‘your kids would go to foster care’. F that.

Yeah, I was just thinking that I’d really like to know what happened at the gate. I’m thinking maybe the gate agent just said OK without fully understanding- maybe he was just thinking the guy was asking if he could board when a member of his party was a no show. Or maybe the passenger isn’t being truthful – it sounds like he spent the money to send his son ahead the day before- the day before asking if it was OK to transfer the seat?

But its really easy to see how they got on. Man boards plane carrying an infant, they scan his boarding pass. I don’t believe lap kids need boarding passes. He gets on plane, occupies both seats. Son’s boarding pass isn’t scanned by boarding deadline, so the gate agents release the seat to a stand-by passenger (or ticketed passenger without seat assignment on oversold flight). Chaos ensues.

I knew I shouldn’t have given an example.

The problem is that it’s hard to say whether the crews are on a power trip when there are either more passengers acting stupidly or more of the ones who act stupidly are willing to go to the media. In this case, the father says they sent the 18 year old earlier on a different flight so that the toddler would have a seat, because the toddler wouldn’t sleep if he wasn’t in his seat and that wouldn’t be safe. OK, I can understand that- but if that’s the case, why didn’t he buy the toddler the seat to begin with?* He apparently did just that on the original flight to Hawaii- or maybe he didn’t and he just got lucky and that flight had an empty seat. The only reason that makes sense is if he was counting on an empty seat, saw in advance that the flight was full and thought he would get a credit for the older son’s unused ticket and could therefore use the empty seat for free or at least much less than the actual price of the ticket. And that probably would have worked if the seat would actually have been empty - but apparently there were people on the standby list. Instead of giving up the seat that did not in fact belong to him, he chose to argue, which is what got him kicked off the plane. It’s not that the crew saw the kid in the carseat and immediately kicked the family off the plane. They told him that he couldn’t use the seat, and he refused to give it up and said they would have to remove him from the flight.
Then there was the one who got kicked off for using the restroom while the plane was waiting to take off after having left the gate. Even after having been told the plane would lose its spot in the takeoff line because it cannot move if a passenger is out of his seat. Because apparently he doesn’t have to obey the flight attendant when he doesn’t choose to. OK fine, so he uses the restroom and every waits another 15 minutes or half-hour to take off - because after all, that’s a small price for a planeful of people to pay because this guy doesn’t have the sense to use the restroom prior to boarding.

Now imagine being the crew on one of these flights. You’ve got one person who refuses to give up a seat that is in fact not his, and another who insists on using the restroom after he is told not to. How confident are you that they will follow directions for the rest of the flight? I know I wouldn’t be at all confident.

  • According to some of the stories they had bought four seats for a family of five, so sending the older son on an earlier flight would have allowed each of the remaining four to have their own seat- but it’s not clear why they would have bought a seat for one of the younger children but not the other.

I have nothing at all to back this up, but I suspect that there are no more cabin crew on power trips than there used to be. What has changed is that, where air travel used to be the domain of the moderately well off, it is now affordable for nearly everyone and a much broader cross section of society will be on any flight. If you have any disposable income at all you can save up for a flight in a few pay periods. Also nearly everyone now has a phone that can record any incidents as they happen. Finally, we live in the information age where these stories can be spread across the world within seconds of the incident happening.

If nothing had changed at all other than phones and the internet you’d expect to see a great increase of these incidents in the media. The fact it is a popular story at the moment just makes any incident all the more newsworthy.

Edit: Following on from the cheaper flights point. Flights can be cheaper partly because load factors are higher which means more chance of overbooking and general stress.

Sure, some airlines are abusive. But if passengers get it into their heads that “Obedience of crew instructions is optional” - well, that doesn’t bode well in an emergency situation.

Shoulda told them that the other son sold it to the baby, same as the airline wanted to sell it to the stranger.

Yes, I know it doesn’t work that way.

You’re always going to run into people on power trips, even Walmart greeters. How many million people get seated every year by airline flight personnel, with no complaint?

I have nothing but admiration for airline flight personnel. Once I get seated, I have nothing to do but watch them do their job, and most of them, I’d feel pretty confident putting my life in their awesome hands. Sometimes what they do doesn’t come off lookiing all that great from the PR standpoint, but they are well-trained and diligent and efficient…

Organizing a planeload of passengers, they’re up against a pretty tight deadline, and you want to get where you’re going on time.

I think you’re a fucking idiot who has to post something on every fucking thing that has to do with anything that makes you a stealth aviation braggart.

Living abroad, I see a “law and order” attitude which I hadn’t noticed as much when I was living in the States. I’m not sure if it’s more prevalent now or that my expectations have changed after a few decades away. Japanese police are more likely to defuse the situation rather than escalate it.

Likewise, companies show more restraint with dealing with customers. This doesn’t mean that the customers are always right and that there is chaos, but that they preserve the customer’s dignity while keeping the rules.

In Japan, you would probably see the flight attendants apologize for having the rules be unclear to the customer but also not back down. Words are cheap and can be used to smooth things over and well as to not escalate. Who the hell threats to take babies away from parents because the airlines are trying to maximize their profits.

I was talking to a fellow father back when my kids are toddlers, and we were surprised at the patience parents have with their kids. So many more American parents just “don’t have to justify a decision” to their kids, in the words of a parent here on another thread.

As a sales manager and then business owner, I would have to deal with customers much more differently than what’s expected in the States.

Yeah, the airlines probably don’t have good training for how to handle situations. I’ve read a number of articles in various online newspapers about police departments recognizing that they need to learn how to deescalate the situation. Right now, it seems that all these people have is “obey me or go to jail.”

Both the United situation and this were with members of society who weren’t scrapping by to purchase tickets.

Everyone know that flying is getting to be such a hassle. Security check in is so much worse. Passengers have to deal with so much more. It’s more crowded, less service and everything seems to be additional fees. The gate crew and flight attendants have to deal with so many more people.

Of course, flying is much cheaper now. The first flight I bought myself was round trip from Salt Lake to Japan for $850 in 1984. There would usually be three seats to yourself.

You can still get discount fights for about the same, despite inflation making it 2.3 times less money. Of course something has to give so there are smaller seats which are fully occupied.

Seats are pretty much the same size they’ve always been, except on the really cheap airlines. (People are bigger, though.)

It’s not only Japan. I’d imagine most Europeans would be appalled by what they see happening in the US.

Yeah, I didn’t mean to imply that the passengers are at fault or that it is because of the “riff raff” being able to buy a ticket, only that it is not special anymore, there are more people doing it, it’s more like taking a bus ride into town, the planes are more crowded, and stress levels are higher. Cabin crew have more to do in some cases (Australian rules used to require 1 cabin crew per 36 passengers but that has been relaxed to 1/50) and less time to do it (shorter turn arounds mean more revenue hours per aircraft per day).

For what it’s worth, I travel regularly and have never witnessed any kind of incident beyond passengers being told to sit down when they get up to get their bags before the belt signs are off.