There’s no question that Coronavirus will have a deep and lasting impact on the world that we live in. Over the last few months, we’ve seen the world all but shut down. Granted it took a little too long for that to happen in some parts of the world (here’s looking at you, America), but that’s an entirely different conversation. Businesses closed, air traffic was radically reduced, and people were forced to stay home. During the quarantine, people all over social media commiserated with each other as we faced a new crisis unlike anything any of us had ever seen before. As cliché as it may seem, it felt as though we were all really “in this together” for once. People were expressing concern for each other, showing kindness, and promising to move forward with more compassion and a positive outlook on life.
As time went on, more and more people were affected by the economic impact that COVID19 has brought to all of our lives. People slowly began to turn away from feelings of sympathy for those that we lost, to concerns that were more trivial and self-serving. Our economy needs saving, of course, but at what cost while people continue to die at an alarming rate each day? Flash forward a few months and the world is beginning to open up again. People seem to have quickly forgotten to follow through on what they once promised to their neighbors on the internet. It’s as though we have been fortunate enough to get a second round of failed New Year’s Resolutions all in the same year. (Wow. Thanks, 2020!)
As a flight attendant, I work with the general public every day in a capacity that can be difficult to describe. When passengers set foot on an airplane, a flight attendant never quite knows how they will act. Flight attendants get to see people at their best, but unfortunately, we also get to see them at their absolute worst. Last week when I went to work, my flights were empty and social distancing was done without issue. While the overall vibe onboard the aircraft was melancholy, the people that were on board were grateful we were there and respectful of each other. This week, however, I encountered an entirely different experience. The airport was crowded, the flights were full, and the passengers were rude. To be honest, it felt like a perfectly normal day of work – except this time people were wearing masks and the threat of a deadly virus still loomed in the air. As I stood at the aircraft door for boarding, I noticed something strange – the same passengers that were annoyed to be on a full flight were also the same passengers who refused to properly wear a protective mask. While some of our passengers were essential healthcare workers, a lot of them were merely trying to go on vacation. The counterintuitive behaviors passengers displayed were perplexing to say the least. I couldn’t believe this was my new normal. I stood at the front of the plane to present the pre-flight safety demonstration, looked out at a nearly full airplane and saw all eyes on me. These people looked both hopeful and terrified at the same time. They wanted to travel while also demanding six feet apart on a very expensive form of public transportation. The harsh truth is, you can’t have it both ways.
The world will go back to “normal” eventually (whatever that means) but I can’t help but think Mother Nature is trying to teach us a lesson. Don’t forget what it feels like to be trapped inside your house worried about your health, your income, your family, your friends, and your resources. None of us like the way it feels, but we all have to endure it. Over the last several weeks, we continuously have promised each other that if we could get out of this devastation that we’re facing, we would do better. But are we?
Being a flight attendant has always been both fun and exhausting but lately it’s only the latter. All of the fun parts of our job have been stripped. Normally we would enjoy engaging with passengers, meeting interesting people, and exploring new cities around the globe. Now we are expected to stay six feet away from people as much as we can, and we are stuck alone in our hotel rooms on layovers. The truth is, each of us can complain for hours about the bad things that have happened to us because of COVID19. This pandemic has affected everyone in a multitude of ways and there isn’t a single person who doesn’t have a story to tell. It’s all relative to what we have going on in our own lives. But instead of saying, “What about me?” we should take our own struggles and learn how to empathize with one another. Don’t walk onto a plane and yell at a flight attendant for something they didn’t do. Don’t go into a medical facility and yell at a nurse who is caring for you. Don’t go into a grocery store and yell at an associate for being out of eggs. It’s. Not. Their. Fault.
We can do better. The world is counting on it.
We would like to dedicate this article to ALL essential frontline workers who have spent countless hours showing up to work every day throughout this crisis and giving it their all. The truth is, none of us would have survived this without you. Thank you for all that you do.
The airports are empty. Planes that would typically hold 300 passengers are taking off with just eight. While the world quarantines because of the Coronavirus outbreak, flight attendants are still showing up to work every day with smiles on their faces – albeit more forced than usual. Given the uncertainty in our world and in the airline community, we’re scared. We’re at high-risk for contracting a deadly virus but we’re also afraid of losing our jobs as our industry collapses before our eyes. Our friends and family have become fearful of us and some flight attendants have even been asked not to come home. Flight attendants, pilots, and other airline employees don’t have the option to stay home from work. We are essential personnel doing what we are expected to do during a global pandemic – pushing forward.
Flight attendants are servers, bartenders, babysitters, counselors, and tour guides, yes – but we also often play the roles of firefighters, nurses, law enforcers, and the list goes on. Most people assume that flight attendants are on the plane to serve drinks, snacks, and maybe perform a life vest fashion show – but this career is far more than what the average traveler sees on a daily basis. Our primary purpose on board the aircraft is to save lives if need be. While customer service is a huge part of the gig, it’s by far the least important. Flight attendants are first responders. 90% of our training is focused on safety and emergency procedures while only 10% is spent on service standards. We are safety professionals.
The list of scenarios we are trained for seems endless, but nothing could quite prepare us for just how emotionally and physically draining it would be to face the public at work every day during a global pandemic. According to The New York Times, flight attendants are one of the most at-risk personnel for contracting the Coronavirus and that’s not something to be taken lightly. Now more than ever we are being reminded just how essential flight attendants and the entire airline industry are to the world. When a global crisis occurs, flight attendants are almost always a part of it. We transport medical supplies and COVID-19 testing kits all around the world. We bring sick patients to life-saving treatments. We staff the Civil Reserve Air Fleet in the US to mobilize troops for war. While some think being a flight attendant is all about seeing the world and maintaining a glamorous lifestyle, flight attendants play a much larger role than they’re often given credit for.
Every day we are expected to maintain our composure and greet passengers with a warm smile. At the same time, we are fearing for our own personal health and safety while also questioning whether or not we will have a job at the end of this. These unforeseen circumstances have added yet another layer to an already multi-faceted profession.
Flight attendants are qualified and experienced professionals. Trust that we are taking every necessary precaution we can to keep ourselves, our passengers, and our family and friends safe. If you are traveling, please treat everyone – not just airline employees – with respect. There are people working in airports, hospitals, grocery stores, sanitation departments, public transportation, hospitality, and so many more doing everything they can to keep our world moving. Sadly, many airline employees across the globe have already lost their jobs. Some have even become ill due to Coronavirus. With that being said, please only travel if it’s urgent. While we appreciate the business, now isn’t the time to buy a $20 ticket for a weekend getaway. We’re not out here working simply because we want to, but because we have to, and we will continue working as long as it is expected of us, but please be mindful of the difficult journey we are facing out here. Flight attendants are innovative, we are resilient, but we cannot get through this without your support!
Everyone on the plane was shocked. He quickly gathered his belongings, emptied the contents of a beverage cart liquor drawer into his bag, and launched the evacuation slide onto the tarmac. He hopped down the slide and for a few brief moments, Steven Slater was free. Little did he know in that moment that his story would be making national headlines. Slater simply wanted to make a point to his company that he had felt unsupported. He could have just walked off the plane and turned in his crew badge, but he knew that would leave little to no impact on airline culture – he had to do more. His mother had fallen ill, his airline didn’t seem to be particularly supportive, and passengers had pushed one too many buttons. All of this plus an earlier altercation with a passenger had brought him to his breaking point. Steven Slater had had enough. He needed to be heard.
In his new memoir, Wingwalking, Steven Slater recounts the events of that day as well as his life before and after his career in the airline industry. I had the opportunity to meet with Steven recently to talk about his new book. They often say that once aviation gets in your blood, it stays there – and being a flight attendant is no exception. When I met Steven at a coffee shop in San Diego, he was friendly, polite, and smiling – in true flight attendant fashion. Slater seemed confident and ready for the next chapter of his life. We sat down and had a candid conversation about his career as a flight attendant, his life on the ground, and what occurred on that fateful day.
Two Guys On A Plane: What made you decide to write a book about these events and why now? What was the writing process like for you? Steven S:I actually started writing it in a motel room; it was incredibly painful and yet liberating. I didn’t intend to publish. It started as a journal. It was cathartic and freeing to write. It helped me put things into perspective and then it took on a life of its own. My writing was raw and dark. There were times I had to step away, but it brought me a release I hadn’t felt before. Many flight attendants had come to me and said that I should share my story and that it could help people who also faced similar mental health and substance abuse issues. I initially feared it would come across in poor taste, especially given some of my experiences, but I hadn’t thought of being able to help people with my stories before – so I decided to take a risk.
TG: In your book you discuss a variety of different issues – some personal, some external – what would you say was the biggest factor in pushing you to your breaking point on the day of your notorious incident at JetBlue? SS: I call it a perfect storm. My mother was ill, and I was dealing with bipolar and substance abuse issues. I was on reserve at the time and I didn’t have the time to schedule the self-care that I needed. I wasn’t able to make AA meetings. It was a perfect storm of bipolar mania, precipitated by alcohol, and rage from situations that JetBlue had caused me – and then that woman pushed me to the edge.
TG: I noticed after your JetBlue incident that you appeared in multiple major media interviews. A lot of people have accused you of deploying the slide to seek attention, so what made you decide to speak out and appear in various media outlets? SS: At the time of the incident, my son was 17. The media was releasing information about my HIV status, my personal life, and the story was being spun in a way that was only getting more outrageous over time. I had to speak up and defend myself. There was so much misinformation out there and I needed to take ownership of my story.
TG: How did you feel immediately after the incident? Did you feel any remorse? SS:Over time, I’ve learned to advocate for myself. Looking back, I wish I’d advocated for myself better at the time to have had a better income. I didn’t know how to ask for help and I backed myself in a corner. Everything I’ve gone through has made me who I am. I’ve become a much stronger and more compassionate person, but it came at a high price.
TG: Every so often, you will see a headline in the news about a flight attendant who lashes out. Do you pay special attention to those stories, and do these stories spark anything within you? SS: At the time of the incident, I was living on the East Coast and my mother was in California. I wanted to move back to California, but I wasn’t getting the support I needed from JetBlue. I wasn’t being treated like a human. I was just a number to them and that affected me deeply. My first concern when I hear these stories is for the flight attendant. Having been in their shoes, I wonder – what is this person going through, what is going to happen to them next, and are they able to get any support? Sometimes I will even reach out to them to offer support.
TG: Do you ever miss flying? SS:I miss the dining, the shopping, the whole experience. I miss meeting new people and what flying used to be. I’m not so much interested in what the job has become. Missed what flying was, but not so much interested in what it became. I miss the camaraderie. The support from the flight attendant family has been phenomenal both after the incident and throughout the release of my book. If I didn’t have the support of the flight attendant’s around me, I don’t know what I would do. They’ve paid my rent, provided me with clothing, and even bought me food, emotional support. I’m very grateful.
TG: Do you think there would have been a different outcome had your airline offered more support to you along the way? What do you think airlines can do to prevent things like this from happening again? SS: Airlines need to look at their crew members as human beings and not just numbers. If someone had stopped to check in with me, we might have had a different outcome. It’s not to say I put all the blame on them. I take responsibility for my actions but wonder if I had more support along the way, if it might’ve been different. I might have had more time to take care of myself and not get to that point. I think airlines need to be more compassionate and humane. Substance abuse in the airline industry is rampant. When I worked for Delta, they had said it was fine initially, and then fired me after I went to rehab. Airlines need to pay more attention and offer more support after incidents happen in flight attendants’ lives both on and off the aircraft. If they failed me, then they have definitely failed other crew members, too.
TG: Now that the book has been released, what do you hope people take away after reading your story? SS:I hope that people get a little bit more of a human view of who I actually am. I’m not a two-dimensional media created caricature and there is an actual person behind the headlines. Most of all, I want to give encouragement to people that suffer. I hope it will be useful for people who experience bipolar and substance abuse. I hope that it shows folks that there is hope for life with those conditions. It is possible to transcend.
TG: So what’s the next chapter for you? SS:I’m still figuring that out. I’m settling into San Diego, I’m maintaining my sobriety, and I’m focusing on my health. I’m currently looking into education opportunities and the prospect of becoming a substance abuse counselor. I want to take the experiences that I have and use that to give back. It’s time for a reinvention. Steven 2.0 is coming.”
As aviation professionals, we live each day surrounded by people and yet often feel so alone. The combination of being away from family and friends, working with strangers, and spending nights alone in foreign cities can certainly take a toll. It’s important to find healthy ways to cope but it can be challenging. In today’s culture, there is such a stigma surrounding mental health and substance abuse issues. The truth is, it’s okay to not be okay. Steven Slater’s story is a powerful one that we can all identify with, whether you’re a flight attendant or not. Each and every one of us faces a great deal of pressure on a day-to-day basis from our jobs, our families, and our communities. Sometimes a helping hand may be all that we need to make a difference in our own lives. Reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you or someone you know needs help, reach out to your company or union employee assistance program, or check out some of the resources we’ve listed below.
A special thank you to Steven Slater for taking the time to chat with Two Guys On A Plane and for being so open and candid about his story. If you haven’t already, check out his new book, Wingwalking, a compelling memoir about addiction, mental illness, and his life in aviation. Available now at Barnes & Noble and Amazon!
RESOURCES FOR FLIGHT ATTENDANTS
FADAP | Flight Attendant Drug & Alcohol Program FADAP is a substance-abuse prevention program, created and promoted for and by the flight attendant profession and funded by the FAA. Phone: 855.333.2327 Online:https://www.fadap.org
RESOURCES FOR EVERYONE
NAMI | National Alliance on Mental Illness HelpLine The NAMI HelpLine is a free, nationwide peer-support service providing information, resource referrals and support to people living with a mental health conditions, their family members and caregivers, mental health providers and the public.
SAMHSA | Substance Abuse and Mental Health Helpline The SAMHSA Helpline is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.
As someone who has dated flight attendants both before and after becoming one myself, I can tell you that it is exhausting. We are always tired, we can be hard to reach, we’re constantly switching time zones, and we’re distant – in every sense of the word. But on the flip side – our patience level is high, we are incredibly attentive to the needs of others, our sense of adventure is unmatched, and we always know where to find the best food in just about any city. We’re not easy to love, but we’re most definitely worth it.
One of the most common questions we get as a couple of married flight attendants is, “How do you make it all work?” Between hectic schedules and working for different airlines, no one seems to understand how we keep our relationship going strong. We admit, being away from home as often as we are can make it difficult to maintain any sense of normalcy, but who wants to be normal anyway?
We keep our lives intertwined and yet separate. It keeps things from getting stale and monotonous. We have plenty of things in common, but we also celebrate the fact that each other has different interests outside of our relationship and our careers. If one of us wants to explore a new hobby or activity, then the other will cheer proudly from the sidelines. If one of us needs a night out with a friend, we don’t feel left out or bothered by it. These experiences only make our time together that much more full of life, laughter, and conversation.
We absolutely love traveling together but traveling separately for work has its advantages, too. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and they’re not wrong. As in any relationship, “me time” is so important so that you don’t lose yourself. You never want to wake up one day and realize you’ve lost sight of who you are. With overnights in hotels in cities across the globe, “me time” is basically built into our schedules as flight crew. You can put on a robe, pour yourself a glass of wine, and watch all sorts of trashy TV or movies that your significant other may not want to indulge in with you. By the time you get home, you’re missing your significant other and are ready for a romantic evening – that is, of course, right after you don’t talk to anyone for a couple of hours. Everybody needs to decompress after a trip.
If you can’t celebrate a holiday on the actual holiday, choose a different date and commit to it to make it just as special – except for New Year’s Eve because yelling “Happy New Year” on January 2nd is very anticlimactic… trust us, we’ve tried it. Plus, your neighbors will think that you’re insane anyway.
When ‘Two Guys On A Plane’ first met – we were living in two different cities, so we had to deal with long-distance and you know that doesn’t always work out. We had two options: put in a ton of effort to spend time together or simply not see each other at all. We both quickly realized that going the extra mile was far more worthwhile than not being a part of each other’s lives. Putting in that much effort and planning into every single date made things challenging but helped us see that what we were doing was worth it. While I admit having flight benefits made things easier for us than most couples, long distance can work if the two parties are willing to meet halfway – literally and figuratively. There were times when I was trying harder to see him, and times when he was trying harder to see me, but the important part is that we were both trying. Neither of us had felt like we were risking it all just to be together. We were both being vulnerable and putting ourselves out there. There were never expectations that one of us would be forced to give anything up; we embraced who the other person was, respected what their life looked like already, and either we fit into each other’s worlds or we didn’t. It was that simple. When it came time for our relationship to take the next step, things began to fall into place and our decision became quite clear: do we want to be together or not? It was far less complex than you’d think dating would typically be, and it’s continued to be that way ever since.
Communication in any relationship is paramount, and even more so when you’re apart from each other so often. Relationships aren’t easy, but as humans we love to complicate things when we don’t have to. We talk to each other about what works for us and what doesn’t, we find ways to keep life exciting, and we make sure that neither one of us ever wakes up and thinks, “Where did I go?”
It doesn’t matter how crazy, ridiculous, or off the wall your thoughts may be, if you can’t be honest and open with your partner about what’s on your mind, you ain’t gonna make it. Schedule date nights, schedule time apart, talk on the phone, FaceTime, text, sext, do whatever works for you to keep the magic alive. Throw out any ideas of “normal” relationships that you may have in your head and spice it up a little. Take some time for yourself and live your own life, it honestly could be exactly what your relationship needs… and our best piece of advice: never, ever stop “dating” each other.
It’s 7:45am. The boarding rush has started to die down and the flight isn’t going to be completely full. I’m preparing pre-flight beverages for First Class passengers and I still have quite a few seats open. A tall black man walks onto the flight with a backpack and a rollaboard. “Good morning!” I say, while the white flight attendant standing beside me says nothing. “That’s odd,” I thought to myself, but she hasn’t been overly friendly during this trip anyway, so I don’t think much of it. He smiles at me and turns down the aisle to take his seat. He stops in First Class right around Row 2 and puts his rollaboard in the overhead bin. That same flight attendant that was silent just a second ago is now marching down the aisle and raising her voice. “This space is for First Class passengers only! Please take your bag back to YOUR seat.” The man looks at her, turns back to shut the overhead bin, and sits down right there in front of her in 2D. He responds politely but firmly, “This is my seat.” She turns bright red and looks back at me in the galley. I’m most likely giving her the dirtiest look I can muster up at this point. She furthers the altercation by asking him, “May I see your boarding pass?” I can’t take this anymore. This display of animosity has to stop. I rush into the aisle and direct her to the back of the plane. “I’ll take it from here. We need to get ready for departure, if you wouldn’t mind closing those bins.” She looks me dead in the eye, face beet red, and says “Fine.” She storms off. I lean down to apologize to the man and have an honest conversation about what just happened. His response felt like a punch in the gut. “It happens all the time. Most people don’t say anything. I appreciate you caring enough to notice, but don’t worry about it.”
Are you infuriated yet? I know I was in the moment and I still am today just thinking about it. Airplanes are packed with diversity but not immune to the racism that exists in our society today. These injustices and microaggressions are occurring at every altitude. It’s 2020 now. Things should be better than they are, but they’re not. While I consider myself to be pretty aware of my white privilege, I also know enough to know that I don’t know everything. I’m not better than anybody. As a gay man, I know what prejudice feels like, but not on the same level. This is different. Racism and homophobia share many commonalities, but at the end of the day, I’m still a white person with privilege. I don’t know what it’s like to be judged instantly because of my skin tone. But what I do know is that as a white person, it’s even more important to speak up about injustices that are NOT happening to me, otherwise our world will never see change. It’s important to hear people’s stories, respect each other’s opinions, and find a way to have a discussion.
I recently sat down with a few friends that can speak firsthand about their own experiences:
“I’ll never forget this experience. It was a simple interaction that was very impactful. While working on the beverage cart on a flight to Boise, Idaho I asked the gentleman in the window if he would like a beverage. He said, “No.” With a smile I said, “Are you sure you don’t want anything to drink?” He responded, “I don’t want YOU to pour me anything.” I was stunned and caught off guard because I quickly realized what he meant. He didn’t want someone like me to pour him a drink. My co-worker looked mortified. I told him, “Well then, no one will be pouring you a drink on this flight. “My co- worker smiled at me and we continued the service. That interaction lasted minutes but it stung for days. I remember that night in my hotel room thinking of all the things I should’ve said, but I was just hurt.”
– Kira, Flight Attendant, 6 Years
“I was working in the back on the beverage cart and there was an older white woman who didn’t want anything during the service. A few minutes later, I went back through to collect trash and that same woman looked up at me, clutching her purse to her chest. I politely asked, “Can I get you anything?” and she said “No” and looked back down. She would barely look at me or speak to me and every time I walked by, she would clutch her purse a little tighter to her body. It wasn’t until a white flight attendant went through the cabin that she suddenly was very chatty and wanted something to drink.”
– Jamie, Flight Attendant, 7 Years
“I was flying one day and a coworker asked me where I’m from. I said ‘Chicago,’ and she said ‘Oh my, so much violence. You must be afraid every day.’ I said ‘No, I don’t live there anymore and haven’t for some time now. However, when I do visit, I’m never in fear for my life.’ Then she said to me, ‘How did you manage to move out the hood?’ I was shocked. ‘Excuse me?! What made you believe I ever lived there?’ She said, ‘Most blacks are from the hood in big cities.’ I responded, ‘Actually, I am and what you just said is out of pocket. We’re at work so let’s keep it cute. Where I’m from it’s called a pass.’ Woosah! let the negative energy GO!”
– Tasha, Flight Attendant, 6 Years
The reality is that these situations are happening every day, in every industry, around the world. While it can be so much easier to stay in a bubble and deny that racism exists, not everyone is afforded that same freedom, so challenge yourself. Start a conversation with someone who might be different than you are. Step out of your comfort zone and start trying to understand other perspectives. Be aware of your thoughts, your words, and your actions.
At the beginning and end of every flight, flight attendants arm and disarm the aircraft doors. If the door is armed, the evacuation slide will inflate once the door is opened. If the door is disarmed, the door may be opened without inflating the evacuation slide. In order to do this effectively, most flight attendants follow a procedure to cross-check each other and verify that the process has been complete. The purpose of this is to make sure the task is performed safely and that no errors occur. If a mistake is made, the slide could inflate inadvertently and seriously injure or kill someone on the ground. The potential consequences could be quite grave. Take this same process out of aviation and apply it to your life. Discrimination exists everywhere. The next time you see someone and you judge them instantly based on skin tone, take a moment to disarm your racism. Cross-check your beliefs.
Now this isn’t about white guilt or shaming anybody. It doesn’t matter what your race is; we can all do better as humans if we stop judging people, fight against any preexisting biases we may have, and start listening to each other. People’s lives depend on it. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
The first question that we get when people find out that we are flight attendants is: “What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you on one of your flights?” Whether we are at a family get together, a social gathering, or even chatting with passengers on the plane, it never fails. This is simply one of the most commonly asked questions. The fact that this is the number one thing asked says a lot about where the airline industry stands today, but that’s an entirely different conversation for another time.
Traveling is already hectic enough without people acting crazy, and yet every other day we see stories on the news about passengers going off the deep end. Whether you are an airline employee, a frequent flyer, or even someone who’s only been on a plane a few times, you’ve most likely got a story or two about a crazy passenger on a flight.
While we could probably give you a million stories ourselves, we decided to sit down with some of our fellow flight attendants, including Passenger Shaming Creator Shawn Kathleen. We had some very honest conversations and shared some laughs. Here are seven passengers that totally deserve all the shame that they can get:
I was in the back of the airplane midflight and a passenger came back to the galley with her emotional support chihuaha. She asked me if there was a private area where she could breast feed her dog. I stared at her for a moment to process what she was saying, but she clearly was not joking. I looked down at the dog, with it’s crazy overbite and it’s teeth sticking out at me, and I was repulsed. Not even knowing how to respond, I finally just said to her “Ehhh, um, the lav is right there.” She nodded as if all of this made sense and then went in to “feed” her pup. The crazy thing is, I’m quite positive she didn’t have any breast milk to give the dog.
I was doing a cabin walk-through on an evening flight that was pretty much wide open. Everyone was spread out and had their own rows. The seatbelt sign had come on and the Captain had told us it would be getting pretty bumpy so we should take our seats. As I was doing a seatbelt check, a passenger waved me down and asked to go to the restroom. I kindly informed him, “The Captain asked everyone to stay seated, including the flight attendants, because we’re about to hit a rough patch of turbulence.” He was clearly pissed off. I said “I’m sorry, but the seatbelt sign is on, and I need to take my seat.” About 30 minutes later, I went to walk through the cabin again and noticed a smell. It wreaked of feces. I get to the same row that that gentlemen was sitting in to see if he was okay, but before I could say anything, I gasped. There was literally a piece of shit on the floor next to his seat. I said, in as professional of a tone as I could muster up at this point, “Sir, what exactly is going on here?” His response? “You told me I couldn’t get up and I needed to take a dump.” Needless to say, he didn’t enjoy talking to the authorities when we landed, but you can’t just go around pooping on the floor at 35,000 feet.
Picture this: Boston to LA. We’re on a 737. About halfway through the flight, a passenger comes to the back to tell me about a man who is distracting other passengers. She tells me his seat number and goes to sit down. At this point, there are a million things running through my mind of what it could be. I’m halfway down the aisle when I hear a buzzing sound. Seriously, what is that? I approach said seat and look down to see this man using an ELECTRIC RAZOR TO SHAVE HIS FACE OVER THE TRAY TABLE! Before becoming a flight attendant, I would have assumed that shaving your face over a surface where people dine seemed like an obvious no, but apparently I would’ve been very wrong. I literally had to hide my disgust as I tapped the guy on the shoulder to tell him that he had to stop immediately because it was distracting and gross. Everyone around me cracked up and I gave the man wipes to make sure he cleaned up every last hair left on that tray table.
I was working my second trip ever and we were boarding a 757 out of MIA. We were towards the end of boarding so the gate agents were checking bags. A lady got to her seat and was beyond pissed that she had to check her bag as there was a space left in the overhead bin above her seat. She then threw a complete temper tantrum unlike anything I’d ever seen. She started screaming at the top of her lungs at me and the other flight attendants and began cussing us out and calling us liars. She caused a huge scene. The gate agent came on to help out and got in between us and the woman yelling. She said “You better apologize to the flight attendants and calm down right now.” The woman then ran away from the gate agent all the way to the back of the airplane to hide. The agent followed and said, “Are you just going to run away from me?” At that point, our lead flight attendant made the decision to kick her off the flight for her behavior. As she exited the plane, the passengers began singing together “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye!” I couldn’t help but laugh.
I was a fairly new flight attendant, maybe a few months into the job, and I was working an “all-nighter” which consisted of flying from MCO to LAX and then back all in the same night. Lovely, right? I’m sure you can already guess how this story is going to go. From the beginning, boarding was a mess so I knew I was in for a rough night. Once we were airborne, after the service, I dimmed the lights and sat down in my jumpseat. We were now about 2 hours into the flight when a young girl came up to the forward aircraft door with a coat on and her carry on rolling up behind her. She said to me, “I’m ready to get out.” I laughed as I thought she was joking. It was clear from her face that she was unfortunately was not. I didn’t want her anywhere near that door so I offered to grab her bags and stow them as I explained that we had about 4 hours left in flight. I returned her to her seat and the surrounding passengers were rolling their eyes and laughing but clearly this lady was on another level. At this moment I knew, I had entered the twilight zone.
While I had hoped the flight would calm down, it only continued to get worse. We later discovered a woman was moving around the airplane sitting with different men and trying to seduce them. She even accused one of them for touching her inappropriately. Needless to say, the cops met us at the gate as those situations are taken very seriously. And as if things couldn’t get any weirder, we had a woman at the end of deplaning who simply refused to get off the plane. Based on the look in her eyes, something was definitely off. We brought the authorities back for a second time to take her and when they arrived, she claimed that I – the flight attendant – was her husband. The police looked at me and I assured them that I was not, and then off in handcuffs she went. The best part of that night? I still had to work the flight back to Orlando. Pro Tip: Don’t fly red-eyes!
I was working as a flight attendant in the back of the airplane and one of my duties was to confirm the amount of passengers on board. The flight attendant up front called back to confirm that I had the same number that was listed on the paperwork, which included an infant. As I was walking through the cabin, I didn’t notice any babies on board. We notified the gate agent and then went to double check with the passenger who supposedly had an infant with her. Her response was, “You asked us to stow everything in an overhead bin.” When I opened the compartment above her seat, I found a mound of blankets and toys and sure enough, there she was – the baby in a bin. Somehow, the mother couldn’t seem to understand why babies aren’t allowed in the overhead bin. Don’t worry, we had a nice long conversation with her about why babies and suitcases cannot be stowed the same way.
It was the last day of my trip, boarding was almost over, and all I wanted to do was go home. A man came on in a wheelchair and sat in 1D, right across from my jumpseat. He was probably in his mid-fifties, long-ish hair, seemed to be a disheveled mess as coins were falling out of his bag onto the floor. I leaned out of the airplane door and kind of mouthed to the wheelchair assist, “Is something wrong with this guy?” He shook his head no and left, but I still thought something was off. I crouched over and asked to see this passenger’s boarding pass, to try and see if I could smell alcohol or anything like that, but there was nothing. At this point, I’d done everything I could to try and find an issue with him before take-off but nothing was coming up. We secured the cabin for departure, and since I was the lead flight attendant, I made my routine call to the Captain to let him know that we were ready. I called and said “Cabin secure. We’re ready for takeoff. If anything happens, it’s the guy in 1D.”
The flight was overall pretty uneventful and it was time to start our initial descent. I was in the back of the airplane at this time. One of the flight attendants went into the bathroom and the other was cleaning up, so I decided to do a trash pick-up from the back of the plane. It was nighttime so the cabin was pretty dark by this point. As I walked into the aisle, maybe two rows deep, I looked up and saw a red light flashing at the front of the plane. I couldn’t even hear the alarm because the plane was so loud. I ran up to the forward galley and noticed the smoke alarm. I grabbed a fire extinguisher, preparing for the worst. I went up to the lav and suddenly the door flew open, this man stepped out, and the whole front right side of his head was singed. Well what do you know, it was 1D. His hair was basically smoking and you could smell it burning. I had assumed he was smoking a cigarette and something went wrong, but as it turned out, he was bent over lighting a crack pipe when his hair caught on fire. I told the Captain what was going on and we had the authorities meet the flight. As we were taxiing in, the man had the nerve to say to me, “Am I going to make my connection?” I advised him that it was best not to say any more at this point. The funny thing was, I knew the whole time that he’d be an issue, but I guess I just didn’t know how much of one he’d become. Of all the jobs I’ve had, the one job that strengthened my intuition the most was definitely being a flight attendant!
What are some of your crazy passenger stories? Drop a note in the comments or tell us on Facebook!
Special thanks to Shawn Kathleen, creator of the Official Passenger Shaming Instagram, for sitting down with Two Guys On A Plane and sharing her favorite story with us!