“Let’s go out on the tarmac and deal with this, just you and I, right here, right now”

american air2Depending on your point of view, Sean Hillen’s case is either an example of an airline crewmember on a power trip or a passenger behaving badly.

Or maybe both.

Hillen wants me to mediate his case with American Airlines after he and his wife were removed from an American Airlines flight from Santo Domingo to Miami.

When the Hillens boarded American flight 662 on Feb. 27, he asked a “steward” for help stowing his bags. The crewmember refused.

“He said loudly in front of a line of boarding passengers, ‘I don’t help with baggage. I’ve worked for this airline 22 years and have had two back operations’,” says Hillen. “When I asked him what his job was then on board, he retorted, again quite loudly, ‘To carry passengers off burning planes.'”

Hillen says he was shocked by the “rather uncouth” response. He asked to attendant how he could possibly save someone from a burning plane if he couldn’t lift a bag into the overhead bin. That didn’t go over well.

“He said aggressively, ‘Let’s go out on the tarmac and deal with this, just you and I, right here, right now’,” Hillen remembers.

Hillen says he stopped talking to the attendant, “sensing something was amiss with him.” He walked to his seat, sat down next to his wife, and told her what happened.

“Suddenly, this steward was bending over me, his face close to mine, repeating over and over, ‘Zip it, da’ya here, zip it. Or I’ll have you thrown off the plane. Just zip it’,” he says.

Related story:   Is an American - US Airways merger good for air travelers?

Hillen asked for the flight attendant’s name, and soon a supervisor was on the scene, warning him to “not be aggressive” with the crew.

Then, just before takeoff, he and his wife were escorted off the plane.

He adds,

Of course, I asked why and was simply told the steward had requested it. I asked to speak to the captain and was brought to the cockpit. The captain said he did not know what the situation was all about but that both the steward and purser had requested my removal and that he had to do so.

Several passengers seated around us complained verbally, saying the situation was completely unfair, one passenger even standing up and threatening to leave the plane also.

Hillen complained to American. Its response? It stood behind the decision to expel him and his wife.

In the carefully considered opinion of our personnel, there were indications that your behavior was disruptive and a potential distraction to our in-flight personnel carrying out their duties, and we acted accordingly. We have the responsibility and authority to take necessary action to ensure the safety of our flights and the customers aboard them.

More specifically it was reported that you had become confrontational with our male crew-member over the issue of your carry-on luggage. As our female purser became involved in an attempt to defuse matters, this demanding and antagonistic demeanor was ultimately witnessed by her as well. The captain intervened and it was determined that you should not travel on Flight 662 that day.

Flight attendants are the authority in the passenger cabins and it is important to remain compliant with their directives at all times. This authority is supported by Federal Air Regulation 91.11 which indicates that persons who appear threatening, intimidating, or otherwise interfering with a flight crew member are subject to serious consequences, the least of which is to be removed from a flight. It is apparent that you were able to travel on another American Airlines flight to Miami that same day.

Hillen appealed this rejection, but American held fast.

“We’ve reviewed this situation in accordance with our reports, and our company policies and procedures,” it wrote to him. “Our position, however, has not changed and remains as described in our March 13 letter to you. We must decline to settle this issue as you have suggested.”

What could American do, other than apologize and maybe offer the Hillens a voucher or a few frequent flier miles? Not much, probably. But it’s the principle that seems to matter here.

Oh, and there’s one more thing I forgot to mention: Hillen isn’t just any passenger. He’s an author and journalist. That lends some credibility to his version of the story, at least in his estimation.

I’m not sure if my involvement would change the outcome of this case, but I’m willing to try — if you think I should.

Update: I’ve contacted American. I’ll have an update when I hear back.

Should I mediate Sean Hillen's case?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • polexia_rogue

    “Flight attendants are the authority in the passenger cabins” –even if they are jerks.

    after the ” I don’t help with baggage” line, the OP should have apologized A LOT. he should have made the flight attendant feel like a king. by the time he was done.

    why? because the Flight attendant will call security and security will ask THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE FLIGHT CREW TO CONFIRM THE STORY. guess what? they are all “friends” or at the very least they want to maintain a good work environment so the will back up their co-worker.

    and when they ask the captain? he will say “it’s up to the crew’s decision.”

    the passenger can NEVER win.

    if the OP has written/video/testimonial proof (other then him and his wife) of his story then by all means pursue his case. but if not the airlines will side with their Flight attendants.

  • ZK-Massachusetts

    This seems like another case of “Do you know who I am?”. I doubt it that the OP is an “Author and Journalist”. First – they don’t use the term “Steward” for many years now. Second – he misspelled “hear” and wrote “here” instead.

  • I’m with the other comments here so far. I don’t think the fact that the OP is “an author and journalist” lends any credence to his story. Obviously not a frequent flyer if he’s still asking FAs to help with baggage. And if they refuse, move on. No snide retorts necessary.

    While I’m normally an impatient person, I know enough not to mess with people who prepare my food, no matter how ticked off I get (unless I’m willing to leave and go somewhere else). The same truism should probably apply to people on planes. It’s a very small space up there and it’s not like you can easily get off. Travel is stressful enough for everyone involved so it’s one of those places to be on your best behavior.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The author bit is completely irrelevant to me. What is important is that Hillen should know, never confront the following people until after you’ve left their zone of authority: Barbers, servers, police officers, and Flight attendants. You will come out the loser.

  • Rebecca

    Having worked in customer service for over 10 years (and thankfully no more), I get the impression that the OP started off with a snide “customer is always right” mentality. I’m not excusing the flight attendant, he should have let it go, but I can see it from his perspective. And we don’t even have the crews side of the story.

    Most likely, the flight crew lost their patience with his attitude and stuck it to him. I don’t necessarily think it was correct to remove him from the flight, but I can see how good that would feel. Everyone who has worked in a customer oriented job wishes they could tell people like the OP to shove it.

    Since he took another flight the same day, what exactly is he requesting in compensation? I say don’t mediate.

  • PsyGuy

    What’s there to gain by mediation, other then publicly reveal the poor behavior of the flight crew. Unless you have video or audio, the airline is just going to stick to their story, and deny any responsibility and liability. Even if you did prove it and you had video of the altercation, the airline doesn’t owe the passenger anything. The were transported on a later flight, and unless the passages can show actual compensentory damages for the delay, then the airline has fulfilled its contract.

    I would still mediate, if for no better reason then to put the airline on notice that their behavior will not simply go quitley into the night.

  • backprop

    No. What an entitled jackass. His hearsay ‘evidence’ doesn’t even deserve a second look.

  • John

    My question is just how freaking big and heavy was the fellow’s carryon? If I were a FA I’d get a little tired of hoisting these monstrosities people bring on planes. To me, passengers should have to put their carry-on in some sort of template and have to check it if it doesn’t fit.

  • sirwired

    Chris, I’m with some of the other posters… perhaps you can explain why him being an “author and journalist” lends additional credibility to his side of the story.

    Frankly, it sounds like he doesn’t fly much (they haven’t been “stewards” as long as I can remember) and the FA was correct; they don’t lift baggage for workplace safety and liability reasons.

    I have a feeling that neither “side” was at their best… we see sarcastic barbs from both people involved, and that’s just what we know about. The passenger’s treatment of the FA would have nearly gotten him thrown out of a decent restaurant if he argued with a waiter like that… why not an airplane? (Of course, a decent restaurant may also have chosen to fire a waiter like that too if he escalated like that, and it happened…)

    Notice that the airline isn’t claiming it was done for “safety” or “security” reasons; just that the staff felt his behavior was such that they didn’t feel like serving him any more.

  • lost_in_travel

    If the FA said something like “go out on the tarmac to settle this” to me, I might very well have gone, along with my luggage and refused to fly in a plane with someone I felt was threatening me. Certainly if the FA had come to my seat accusingly, I would have been even more certain that I wanted to be off that plane. I wonder how American would have handled a passenger who felt threatened byt an FA and wanted to get off the plane?

  • I think it’s a valid point. Journalists are trained to report “just the facts” about an event, so it does lend some credibility to his documentation.

  • BillCCC

    Nothing to mediate. It appears that an entitled passenger disrupted the loading of a flight and was escorted from the airplane. FWIW I don’t find his version very credible.

  • Meghan Guilford

    I’m confused. What is there to mediate? Are they still stranded in Santo Domingo? Were they charged an extra $500 for a new flight? Did the passenger lose his pride and just wants AA to tell him he is right and they are wrong? I voted “No” because your time could be better suited on other cases where the airline did act unfairly and compensation is warranted.

  • Kathleen Proud Keyte

    Oh, I see authors and journalists are more honest. I get it. Remind me not to write to you for help – I can’t be believed as I am not a journalist/author.

    Seriously, why did he need help stowing his case? Did he say he couldn’t find space for it it an agressive/accusatory tone? Is he disbaled? Don’t think we have all the facts & although the “journalist and author” remembers exactly what the FA did, his actions are less well documented.

  • DChamp56

    Everyone has a bad day, even journalists. Your opinion isn’t very objective Chris, as a journalist yourself.

  • Kathleen Proud Keyte

    oh like the really realiable jounalists at say Fox news or the Catholic Herald?

  • Don Spilky

    Chris, I’m sorry but I must object. Perhaps at one time that was a true aphorism, but unfortunately it has been quite some time since Journalists have reported “just the facts” about an event. Just watch any of the news shows for an evening and you will see how objective reporting has become advocacy journalism.

    Absent true objective documentation, this appears to be a “he said, she said” situation with the truth being somewhere in the middle and I don’t see the value of your mediating this situation.

  • Stereoknob

    I would love to see this case mediated because I’d like to see the outcome. There has been more than a few stories regarding topics like this one and I’d like to see how things play out if it truly is the employee who’s being unprofessional and not performing their job correctly.

  • Cam

    Uh…..why does the passenger being an “author and journalist” lend him credibility?

  • KarlaKatz

    You state: “He’s an author and journalist. That lends some credibility to his version of the story.”…


    In fact, because he is such, he’s probably quite good at storytelling and fabrication. Don’t you ever watch CNN or MSNBC, or read The New York Times?

  • MJonTravel

    For the life of me, I cannot understand why people have to push it. Was the F/A out of line, yes. Did the passenger make it worse, yes. If you ever find yourself in a situation with a crewmember, politely get out of it. The moment you land, ask for a manager. Explain the situation and let them know you will follow up with a letter. Write the airline, and copy the US DOT. Then wait and see what happens. You will not win on the airplane…..ever.

  • EdB

    For me, this is just another example where a third party should be involved in determining if the removal was justified. Absent and physical record of the incident, of course the airline is going to back the crew. Now how would it work with a third party? I’m not really sure but allowing the organization do the investigation that would have to pay if found in the wrong is, well, wrong.

  • Charlie Parker

    You can only go on the situation as it is reported and we don’t have the FA’s report. However, plain fact is that the FA in question is PAID & TRAINED to be the better person in this situation and not lose his cool. Regardless of the request to help with a bag, if the FA had used better judgement in his first reply and attempted to, as they are trained to, deflect and defuse the situation rather than get snarky and inflame matters, it would have ended there – or at least he’d have followed protocol and maintained a professional level. No surprise that it escalated.

    Also, there was surely an abuse of power by the FA in returning to further berate and humiliate a seated customer face-to-face after the event had passed. That act shows complete disregard for every precept of dealing with unhappy clients and was spoiling for a fight IMO. If indeed the FA was witnessed requesting a physical altercation? it was THEY who should have been removed from the flight, not the journalist (who BTW indeed are trained to be more observant and remember situations better than a lay person does).

  • KarlaKatz

    Let’s not forget those sci-fi storytellers at MSNBC and CNN… or, how about The New York Times?

  • Nppalawyer

    Too bad there was not video and audio of this incident.

  • scot2512

    Having seen flight attendants refuse to help stow bags for elderly or even disabled passengers, the FA’s answer doesn’t surprise me. As a frequent flier my personal philosophy is “if you can’t manage your luggage yourself, don’t bring it”. That being said, I just returned from Europe with a flight crew that never once smiled or even looked semi-friendly. And not one looked under the age of 50 and very few looked in any kind of physical shape. I doubt very much if they could carry anyone of a burning plane!

  • Please, let’s stay on track with the discussion. If you don’t think journalists are trained to report the facts, or that this passenger would have remembered his training, I’m OK with that. The fact remains, he still got kicked off a flight.

  • MortarMagnet

    This just ain’t cool. At what point do flight attendants become accountable for their actions and demeanor? Since 9/11, they imagine themselves to have been given some sort of dictatorial authority by the government. I also believe the Captain could have investigated this a little bit before taking the word of the attendant and the purser, especially if other passengers threatened to get off the plane because of the mistreatment.

    Having said that, I must ask you Chris, what makes this man more believable than I because he is a journalist? That was probably not a very smart thing to put in print, and I see you are already taking a lot of flak over it.

    Lastly, if your bag is so damn big and heavy that you cannot lift it into the overhead compartment without assistance, then you need to check it. End of story. You can’t carry or lift it, or it doesn’t quite fit? It must go in checked baggage. This is the kind of thing that causes flight delays. You are not so all-fired important that you have to be first-off the plane to your ground transportation,and/or you should have planned your connecting flights better. How are you going to get through the airport with an oversize heavy bag you cannot lift in time to make your next flight?. I personally would like to see that dealt with by the airlines as well as people from other rows and sections taking up space in the overhead compartment that I am paying rent on.

  • JamieB

    If the flight attendant was not super polite and making the passenger feel as if the customer is always right, then the FLIGHT ATTENDANT should have been removed from the plane and replaced with another one. Even if 1000 people a day treat you like a jerk, YOU still get paid to do your job as an employee – so smile, shut up and help passengers. Attendants are paid to display one emotion only – happiness. They can be human and grumpy when they are off of the clock.

  • Alan Gore

    There needs to be a really good court test of aircrews’ ability to eject a passenger based on vague misgivings about character or demeanor. Even the “Good Airline” has a history of ejecting women for supposedly skimpy dress.

    Hillen’s case is going to depend on whether he can locate the passengers who witnessed his confrontation. Did he really break off the confrontation right away as described? Did he pull DYKWIA at the scene? Did the FA really come back afterward and threaten him?

  • MarkKelling

    Sounds like both parties were not having the best of days.

    If you can’t pick up your own carry on and place it in the overhead, it ain’t a carry on. It is checked luggage at that point. I don’t care how old/feeble/handicapped/whatever you are. Not saying I won’t lend a hand to someone struggling, but you need to take responsibility for your own belongings and plan accordingly.

    I doubt the OP was as calm in his comments as he states and the actual tone of those remarks is not reflected in the writing. How loud was he in expressing how he felt the FA would not be able to do his job? How loud was he in reiterating the events that had just occurred to his wife, who probably was right next to him when they occurred? What was the response by the OP when told to “Zip it”? While reporters and journalists do a good job (in most cases) of reporting just the facts when it is not a situation they are personally involved in, most people don’t do so well when it is something that affects them.

    I think the FA was a bit over reactive and probably should have responded to the initial request in a calmer manner. But then the OP should have also immediately dropped the issue and not said anything else to the FA when told no help would be provided with lifting the luggage.

    I had to vote no to mediation. The OP was put on the next plane and got home. Maybe he learned that in today’s world on a plane the passenger is not always right.

  • hinchberger

    If you can`t carry it on the plane, it is not “carry on.” Unless passengers are disabled, they should be required to carry their “carry on” bags onto the plane and dispose of them without assistance. “Carry on” bags should not be wheeled onto the plane. And oversized and overweight bags should not be allowed, If the check-in staff had done their jobs correctly, it is likely that the passenger’s bag would have never been allowed as “carry on.”

  • teresa

    The fact that Mr. Hillen is an author and journalist does not put him in a higher passenger level. Journalists and authors can be obnoxious aldo. Mind I am not saying he was, I just find your line not adequate.

  • Marmoset509

    I have a feeling that the passenger had more of a role in his being kicked off the plane than he’s willing to acknowledge. These kind of things are rarely as one-sided as he’s making it seem.
    I’ve encountered some pretty grouchy flight attendants, but serving the general public is no picnic either.

  • Joe Smith

    Seems like there is more to the story.

  • This guy comes across as an over entitled jerk. FAs haven’t been “stewards” for decades and they find the term demeaning. His entire narrative leads me to believe that there’s much more to the story that he’s leaving out. Body language and tone tell a story all their own plus the fact is that a FAs primary job is passenger safety and evacuation not serving cocktails or stowing their over packed luggage.

    So Mr Entitled, you asked what his job was and he answered truthfully. The fact that you are too ill-informed to understand that speaks volumes about you, not the FA.

    Move along… there nothing to see here… Move along…

  • zakany

    No one should bring a carry on that they cannot properly store.

  • Dave Thunder

    I can’t find a ‘Sean Hillen’ that bears any significant journalistic credentials. Having written for fish wraps 20 years ago doesn’t qualify you as a current journalist, while being a ‘freelance writer, editor, media trainer’ holds about as much weight as me being a professional football player because I shoot video for an NFL team. I vote NO as there doesn’t seem to be much to mediate. AA has likely seen this post, and I’m sure the FA has received a refresher in customer care.

  • zakany

    And judges. Never mess with a judge in their courtroom.

  • It’s about time some laws start applying to the horrendous flight crews perusing the skies these days. These people are worse than a cop on a power trip and I understand they put up with a lot of unruly people but they shouldn’t take it out on the people that are actually attempting to get the much deserved service from overpriced airlines. It’s time that North American airlines learn from our Asian neighbours what services should look like. I suggest bootcamps in SE Asia to learn respect and some much needed customer service. Hope this case makes this poor man and his wife some money!

  • Sorry, Chris, but your profession lost the appearance of objectivity with the general public years ago. The fact that he’s an author/journalist is irrelevant, and whether you realize it or not, adding more weight to his story diminishes your credibility in the eyes of many of your readers. If the OP had a real complaint, both of you lost a large subset of possible supporters for mediation because you decided to play the “journalist” card.

    Anyway, I have to agree with others that we don’t seem to be getting the whole story here. I have been a frequent critic of the seemingly unfettered power of FAs and gate agents to abuse passengers without recourse after 9/11, but the use of the term “steward” tells me this guy just might have been something of a jackwagon himself. Unless you’re keen on missing your flight and having a date with the airport police, your best course of action when you run into a militant FA is to let it go, and address it once you’re on the ground at your destination, either with another member of the flight crew or an airline representative. And anyway, unless one of you can round up some of the other passengers to attest to the FA’s rudeness, I think you’re wasting your time here.

  • emanon256

    Wow, I voted no. The OP reminds of the monicre shared on here recently, If you meet more than one jerk in a day, its probably you who are the jerk.

    The fact that he kept using the term “Steward” repeatedly made him appear to be a total jerk to me from the get-go. Also, when the FA said he doesn’t lift baggage because he had 2 back operations, that is not so out of line, depending on his tone, it could have been very nice. But the OPs response is totally out of line. The way he said, Then what is your job on board, wow, that would set anyone off. That is a really jerky nasty and threatening thing to say. If I were an FA and after kindly declining to help with a valid explanation, If the OP retorted with that, I wouldn’t be comfortable with him on board either. It sounds like the FA escalated at that point and they both got out of control, but this is only the OPs side. So if the OP admits to being what I consider a major jerk, I wonder how bad he really was?

    And Chris, not all journalists are as ethical and honest as you. You are giving him too much credit. Perhaps he reports the facts when he is reporting on a situation to which he is not a party, but being a party to the situation, I don’t think he can be impartial and report just the facts anymore. Heck, after reading his own words, I don’t think he is impartial as a journalist either.

    Many airline have policies that FAs can’t lift baggage because they can get injured. Makes total sense to me. If you can’t carry it, check it. There are many people who can’t carry their bags due to physical problems, and there are always willing passengers to help. I have lifted many bags for people with poor physical health. Also, I have seen air hosts help lift the bags of disabled people.

  • Charlie Funk

    Does anyone know if the Sean Hillen in this piece is this Sean Hillen


  • Rgoltsch

    Some folks have mentioned having a third party arbitrate calls to have a passenger removed from the plane. But how would we do this?

    How about cameras on board? That would keep both sides honest, knowing they are being watched.

    Sure, some will complain about the intrusion of the cameras into their personals space…..but face it, cameras and surveillance are everywhere anyway.

    Employees everywhere are under watch, and having a live video feed might make things more secure knowing the pilots can see what is going on behind their locked cabin door.

  • Don Spilky

    Agreed, and I still think that absent true objective documentation, this appears to be a “he said, she said” situation with the truth being somewhere in the middle and I don’t see the value of your mediating this situation.

  • James Orth

    What does his profession (he is a writer and a journalist) have to do with his credibility) Am I less believable just because I am just because I’m a CARPENTER! Also I have a hard time accepting his claim that a flight attendant would ask him if he would like to settle this outside on the tarmac?

  • I’m confused. I didn’t play the journalist card — he did. Also, if my credibility has been diminished in the eyes of so many readers, why are you reading my site and commenting? Please help me understand.

  • jebaker

    If you can’t lift a bag in the overhead bin, then it’s too heavy for you. If it’s too heavy for you, you should not expect a flight attendant to do it. Period. I have a friend with AA who has had major back surgery from being helpful and it’s her career at risk. Pack less.

  • Christina Conte

    Although this is definitely a “he said-he said” situation, I have been in this exact situation myself several times and there is nothing worse than someone in a position of relative authority instigating trouble for absolutely no reason. I say press AA for more answers, and the least they should offer is an apology.

  • Miami510

    I think Chris should contact American Airlines on this incident for two reasons:

    First, he has the weight of a travel-consumer Website with a large, traveling, readership behind him. Second, When American Airlines is contacted by someone other than the person involved in the incident, they are getting an objective view of their employee’s deportment. They will do, as many police forces do: they wait a short time and move the employee to an undesirable route and pass over them for any promotions or salary increases. Most often, such employees end up leaving when they realize they are at a dead-end with the employer. I can’t believe any organization, including American Airlines wants employees with such attitudes in their employ. The tactics I’ve described above are to thwart the efforts of unions to protect underperforming employees.

  • Daddydo

    This again is a legal problem. I would invest a little time, a good bit of legal costs and sue the heck out of AA. We need Ralph Nader back on the “let’s fix the airlines wagon.” This may take years, but I would go after that crew.

  • James, in re-reading the story, I realized that I forgot a very important qualifier. Sean had made it a point to show is journalist credentials, both to AA and to me. I’ve fixed that.

    And for the record — and I think my record bears this out — I do treat everyone’s claims with the same level of skepticism. Even when they’re members of the press corps.

  • jimp

    Stay out of it Chris, his job description is not relevant, he couldn’t lift his own carry on, and he clearly doesn’t get how “stewards” stopped working on airplanes a long time ago. I voted NO.

  • Andrew F

    If I were in the passenger’s position, I would probably want to meet that “steward” face to face, with an impartial arbiter present. If he is as unhinged as the OP makes him to be, it will become apparent in a short while. Otherwise the OP will be exposed as a liar. Problem solved.

  • Klodin

    Curious is he happened to get any names/numbers from the passengers who corroborated his story vs American. Perhaps if he had asked for other passengers information at the time, he may still have made his flight.

  • DavidYoung2

    Yeah, something seems off here. First, why are you asking an F/A to help with your luggage? Didn’t you pack it in such a manner that you can easily stow it? No? Whose fault is that?

    Second, this just doesn’t smell right. If the F/A has has such a volatile temper, I seriously doubt they’d still be there after 22 years. Such uncontrolled rage and/or anger tends to get people fired, either from customer complaints or popping off to the wrong supervisor.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    *SIGH* Why are there people in the world who ALWAYS manage to bring politics into it? What happened to polite discourse?

  • MarkKelling

    Good idea, but when you are being forcibly removed from the plane it is kinda difficult to stop and find the time to have someone write down their info and give it to you.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Yeah, I would’ve kicked him off, too. He sounds like a self-important turd. Really? “Steward?” What is this, 1930? And if you can’t lift your own bag, don’t travel. If you’re handicapped and can’t lift your own bag, don’t travel alone. The world is not your babysitter, yo.

    Off topic:
    I wonder if you’ve heard about the mess with the Anime North hotel? I don’t attend that convention, but a bunch of con sites are abuzz with it. I tossed your name and email to a few people who have been affected by it.
    (Yes, yes, I’m a grown man in my 30s and go with friends to these things. It’s a good time, if you can avoid the idiot Homestuck cosplayers…which isn’t even anime, but whatevs)

  • MarkKelling

    On Air Berlin, the flight attendants practically yank your carry on out of your hand and throw it into the bin as soon as you get to your seating area. They even wear special leather gloves to protect their hands from sharp edges on the bags. Surprised me the first time I had it happen to me! And it does speed the boarding process.

    I do understand the desire of the airlines to protect their FAs from injury from handling bags that are too heavy. You don’t want them out on workman’s comp because then you would have to hire more to cover for them. Also, a FA friend told me they removed the test from their annual check where they have to open an over-wing exit window. Too many were hurting themselves throwing the 25 lb exit window out of the plane.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I can generally come late to the party (and being in the Pacific Time Zone helps with that), and see folks have already posted that which I thought of saying, thus can only nod my head in agreement and move on.

    Today, however, I find this to not be the case.

    Having been on the receiving end of a crew member or members who will lie to save their skin and make the passenger look like the crazy one (called Gas Lighting in psychological circles), I’m leaning towards giving a bit more credence to the OP.

    Crew members are trained to deal with the public in a positive and helpful manner, but there are some who simply refuse to do so. Is it they lack power in their private lives and bring it with them to work? Is it they have a personality that includes being abusive to anyone and everyone they come in contact with? Is it they’re having a really bad day and can’t seem to keep it in check? We’ll never know, to be sure, but in looking at this particular event out of context of anything else, as should be done, I’m leaning towards the OP being the more honest of the group.

    A journalist can slip into their “journalism mode” w/o warning or awareness it’s even happening. Years of training is difficult to shake off. However, as a journalist myself (though my true journalism skills have fallen quite a bit since becoming a travel writer), I also know writers tend to downplay their role more than a little bit in narratives.

    I’m not saying the OP was completely out of control but the few remarks he did make to the FA certainly could have come off as insubordinate and/or rude. However, the FA took things too far in pursuing the confrontation with the OP by following him to his seat and remaining antagonistic, once the OP had removed himself from the situation.

    All the discussion about the carry on being too heavy, the OP shouldn’t be traveling because of it, etc. is merely a distraction from the true point here: did the FA go too far?

    Yes, the FA DID go too far. Did the OP add to it? Yes, he did. He should have let the FA have their bad day and not add to it.

    In addition, as someone with a disability myself, I resent anyone implying to me I should live less than a full life because of THEIR opinion on my disability. The OP definitely had no business expressing his opinion of an FA who can’t lift a heavy bag. As someone with a disability, who is someone else to judge me, my life and my choices based on a 15 second interaction? I’m aware of my limitations, as is the FA, and it’s no one’s business but that of the handicapped person, their doctors and the company that signs his paychecks.

    The lone statement made by the OP,“When I asked him what his job was then on board…” was the one that set things in motion in this. Such an incredibly rude thing to say. If the job of this particular FA is to stand in the aisle and do absolutely nothing, that’s no one’s business but the FA and the airline (his employer).

    So, no, don’t intervene. This guy was a jerk and admitted it in his watered down version of events.

  • EdB

    So someone who’s height is not sufficient enough to reach the overhead storage shouldn’t be allowed carry on? I guess in addition to those “your bag must fit in here” devices they don’t use, they should also have a “you must be this tall to bring on a carry on” sign.

  • Kevin Mathews


    I understand what MeanMeosh is saying here, and had the phrase used been worded differently, you probably would’ve had no complaints:

    “Oh, and there’s one more thing I forgot to mention: Hillen isn’t just any passenger. He’s an author and journalist. That lends some credibility to his version of the story, at least in his estimation.”

    Probably better worded:

    “Disclaimer: Hillen is an Author and Journalist. In his estimation that should lend credibility that his side of the story is the full and accurate dipiction of events.”

    The way that you have it written, even with the “at least in his estimation” at the end, it seems to read that you ARE giving him more credibility then you would anyone else. Personally, I don’t think YOU have lost any credibility over this one simple statement that could be taken several different ways, but it did make me reread the article and read between the lines a little closer…

  • gracekelley

    From a FA whose primary duty is safety and am always polite about and no one listens to me anyway if i felt intimidated no way would i go up with him. & why couldnt he stow his bags? No it is no fa’s jobs to do this if we are hurt doing so workcomp doesn’t cover it because we arent paid till the door shuts & then we can be put on probabtion for missing the work. We are not suppose to stow bags. We can shuffle things around to try and make more space but don’t lift bags. Take it from someone that has been hurt numerous times on the aircraft that has the door open to have zero resources after doing so. Not worth it. If you cannot lift your bag check it. And don’t be aggressive when stews and stewards say no because yeah sounds like this particular one lost his cool but really let me come to your job demand you do something for me and then be all aggressive about it i especially love when people are shocked when a crew member doesnt wanna be recorded let’s go to your job and record me tell you how to do your job and see how you like it. People need to realize safety comes first customer service 2nd on the aircraft and that we are actually backed on by our company and that means keeping ourself safe too. So let me add again I am one of the NICE and POLITE stews but i also get a lot of grief going about it that way. Go ahead all lay into me you cannot make me feel worse.

  • Chris, you know FA’s are there for the safety of the passengers and crew (not to assist with luggage). They are not “customer service agents”, though they are the face of the company and common courtesy is expected. Some/Most FA’s will assist people with their luggage but they do this as a courtesy, not as part of their job description. If the Hillens could not lift their own luggage into the overhead, then they should have checked it. To me, it seems that the entire issue was started because the Hillens “expected” assistance with their luggage. The bantering back and forth, by both sides was uncalled for, childish, out of line. But you have to ask yourself, what exactly sort of compensation would you mediate for? Are they asking for a “formal apology”? Looking to get the FA fired? Looking for a refund for their entire trip? IMHO, I think they are both at fault therefore you should not get involved in this case.

  • EdB

    Seems most city buses have on board cameras for just this reason. Don’t see why it would be any more of an issue on the plane.

  • Joshua

    There’s nothing in the original post that says that Hillen couldn’t lift the bag. Maybe that’s the case, but maybe he just needed help finding room to store his bag in the bin. (I agree that IF Hillen was unable to lift the bag himself, he shouldn’t have expected the flight attendant to do so.)

  • y_p_w

    It was the FA who had difficulties lifting bags, and not the OP.

    While perhaps FAs may help with luggage at their discretion, they aren’t luggage porters. The OP never mentioned any difficulty with luggage – just that he wanted the FA to help do it.

  • gracekelley

    Just reading the quoted words made me feel intimated. Crew are there with you barelling through at 500mph. We feel the pain about the hot over crowded small seats delayed planes etc etc. yes we are there for you to blame yes we should apologize yes we are in a service biz no service is not all we do. Yes safety is first including keep yourself safe before service. Yes that is before customer service. We don’t make airline policy don’t be aggresive because you don’t like the answer then expect hilton customer service. No i do no think the FA handled it properly IF he even is telling the truth you can bet the airline would call other passengers and get the real storie given that and the airlines response i would say no this person is leaving or adding some words. no we are not your slave.

  • y_p_w

    Such cameras almost universally point towards the passenger area and few capture audio.

  • EdB

    How is it that just because you can’t lift a bag into the overhead bin it is because it is too heavy? What if you can lift it but you aren’t tall enough to reach? Should the airlines put a “you must be this tall” sign at the entrance of the jet way to allow people to bring carry on?

  • gracekelley

    Crew is not compensated during boarding so good luck you’d need a great lawyer. No we are specifically told do not lift bags here in america cause we are not covered by comp when we are off the clock.

  • John Keahey

    I’m glad you added “at least in his estimation,” Chris, when saying being a journalist and editor gave Hillen credibility. Having been a journalist and editor in and around newspapers and wire services for 45 years and a frequent international traveler, I can attest that we can be as jerky or as easy-going as anyone else. We only have his side of the story; the standard corporate position does not reflect the other side. You should pass on this one. Maybe next time, the message will sink in that he is responsible for what he carries on and that it is foolhardy to crab with a FA over something that is not the FA’s job. I suspect he knew that since his work reflects a lot of travel under his belt. Foolish man. And if you can’t lift the bag, check it!

  • little old lady

    .I have always avoided posting on internet comment boards, but I am willing to risk the wrath of the road warriors and the “experts” to inject a little levity into this discussion.
    My husband and I are now in our late sixties and fly only three or four times a year, almost exclusively internationally. Several years ago we were returning from our annual six week dive vacation in Bonaire. We had decided to try Insel Airlines. On our return flight from Curacao to Miami we were fortunate enough to get exit row seats.
    There were several large men seated behind us. The male flight attendant asked us to change our seats “because we were unable to open the exit window.” The window weighs about what the weight of our dive gear is! We asked the basis for his determination. He gave us none and insisted that we move. We refused.
    His supervisor arrived and repeated his determination. I inquired what the basis was since the only evidence was that we had grey hair and wrinkles. I suggested that might constitute age discrimination in the U.S. She moved the attendant, not us. Ironically the instructions were only in English, and the woman in the window seat spoke no English.

  • WhoSaidThat

    Court case? It’s a private airline. If they don’t want you on the plane they can kick you off. If you ride in my car you follow my rules. If you don’t like the airline’s rules fly elsewhere.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    There are definitely two ways to look at this.
    First of all, if you cannot stow the bag yourself, either have a smaller bag or check your baggage. The flight crew is not your personal butler. I can image that many do have back problems from helping passengers in the past.
    On the other hand, I have seen a member of the flight crew get pretty aggressive. If this is the case, you don’t have a prayer in the world. Unfortunately, it is better not to say anything or you will be tossed off the plane. Is it right? No, but since 9/11, air travel has changed for the worse.

  • gracekelley

    It humors me that people think the airlines don’t speak to other witnesses before they issue those letters. It humors me that people think that airlines have service before safety on the aircraft. On the aircraft safety first once that is understood the whole concept of flying in todays miserable air travel shall change.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    If they can’t reach, who is supposed to stow their bag?

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Where you flying on United?

  • y_p_w

    A 16″ roller would stow nicely under a seat.

  • gracekelley

    Workmans comp for us carriers does not cover any injury that happens when the door is open thus we are only paid when door is closed. Safety first.

  • gracekelley

    Gate check

  • EdB

    That’s kind of my point. If the airline rules allow you to bring a carry on, but doesn’t give restrictions on how tall you have to be, what is that person suppose to do? I am just asking what the flight crew is suppose to do in this case. Maybe one of the FAs that follow can answer.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Agree. I am amazed at the huge suitcases that people bring onboard.

  • little old lady

    I guess I was wrong when I said the exit window weighed what our dive gear does. It actually weighs about half as much!

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    The flight crew should not help. Being injured at work is a nightmare – physical therapy, missed work days and maybe short term disability pay which is much less than your regular salary.

  • gracekelley

    To the FA’s trying to make people see that safety is before service on an american aircraft and that we are not paid or covered by workmans comp when the door is open just stop. They want us to serve them on one knee like cathay and don’t speak otherwise. Forget about trying to convince anyone your polite or that you go through hours of training and understand simple tasks such as a purse under a seat can be a hazard when doing 200mph for take off and landing etc it won’t work. Just leave the site now and step away. I have to. I give up we are all stupid to most of the people anyway they ignore us except when they want a drink or a bag hoisted don’t mention gate check. That’s intimidation. Before I go tough let me just say as i watch my coworkers barking at people to follow regs they get results when i say would you please i am ignored. That’s all let us leave in peace they will never understand our shift in how the job has changed or how it feels to be conered at 30k ft by someone intimidating you 3 times your size. If we can’t get a hi at boarding we will never be seen as safety first service next. Don’t waste your time and don’t read anymore comments it’ll just make it worse.

  • Yeah, sounds like this guy deserves your help. However, the flying public has to remember one hard and fast rule: never mess with a flight attendant, never, never.

  • gracekelley

    Thank you for not berating me for saying gate check

  • gracekelley

    The grammer issues in my posts come from the fire i feel in my stomach not because I am unintelligent

  • Raven_Altosk

    Yeah, but if he needed someone (or wanted someone) to assist…that’s where I was going with that, bro.

  • gracekelley

    You sound like a golden flyer!

  • Vanessa

    If you can’t lift your carry on luggage, check it. This is on you, not the flight attendant.. I found the OP right from the start was looking to demean the crew when he called them “Stewards”, and I suppose when I found out he was a journalist I even more felt he had some sort of entitlement issue. Why talk back and be an a$$? The flight attendants are there for your safety period.. They are not bell hops, or servants. For heaven sake, the OP being a journalist should know better.

  • Guest

    Actually us carriers do not pay us and work comp does not cover us when the door is open so our job when the door is open is to answer questions and apparently be ignored while announcing federal regulations. I missed where this person was under the ada just that he wanted the bag stowed. No it is absolutely not a us fa’s or “stewards” job to stow anything. It is safety THEN service. I would never have had the same interaction as I would have just gate checked the bag.

  • LFH0

    It might be helpful to review the relevant FAA regulation and the definitions of the terms involved.

    14 C.F.R. § 91.11 Prohibition on interference with crewmembers.
    No person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember’s duties aboard an aircraft being operated.

    14 C.F.R. § 1.1 General definitions.

    Aircraft means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air.

    Crewmember means a person assigned to perform duty in an aircraft during flight time.

    Flight time means. . . [p]ilot time that commences when an aircraft moves under its own power for the purpose of flight and ends when the aircraft comes to rest after landing . . . .

    Operate, with respect to aircraft, means use, cause to use or authorize to use aircraft, for the purpose (except as provided in § 91.13 of this chapter) of air navigation including the piloting of aircraft, with or without the right of legal control (as owner, lessee, or otherwise).

    An interesting legal case was Schaeffer v. Cavallero, 54 F.Supp.2d 350 (S.D.N.Y. 1999). In that that case the court observed:

    “The Federal Aviation Act provides that an airline ‘may refuse to transport a passenger or property the carrier decides is or might be inimical to safety.’ 49 U.S.C. § 44902. Such a refusal cannot give rise to a claim for damages under either federal or New York State law unless the carrier’s decision was arbitrary and capricious. See Schaeffer v. Cavallero,29 F.Supp.2d 184, 186 (S.D.N.Y.1998), citing Williams v. Trans World Airlines,509 F.2d 942, 948 (2d Cir.1975) and Adamsons v. American Airlines,58 N.Y.2d 42, 48, 457 N.Y.S.2d 771, 444 N.E.2d 21 (Ct.App. 1982). In denying defendants’ prior motion for summary judgment, this Court found that a reasonable juror could conclude from the submissions there made that the defendants removed Schaeffer from the plane, not because they believed he posed a safety risk, but in retaliation for his verbal protests, and that this would be arbitrary and capricious. See Schaeffer, 29 F.Supp.2d at 186.

    “Nonetheless, plaintiff, in presenting his direct case at trial, elicited no evidence of retaliatory motive on the part of the defendants. He did, however, introduce evidence that, if construed most favorably to plaintiff, would tend to show that defendants reached their decision that plaintiff presented a safety risk that required his removal from the plane based chiefly on their observation of his strenuous arguments for a baggage receipt, in the course of which he raised his voice, denounced the airline’s position as “preposterous,” and was generally quarrelsome. Thus, when defendants moved at the close of plaintiff’s case for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a), the question before the Court was whether a reasonable juror could find that defendants acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in removing plaintiff on the grounds of safety risk when all he had done was loudly protest a non-safety matter, i.e., their refusal to give him a baggage receipt.

    “In the first of the two holdings on which counsel has asked the Court to elaborate, the Court held that a jury could so find, and therefore denied defendants’ Rule 50(a) motion. Tr. at 177. Any other conclusion would have rendered completely futile and without meaning the statutory requirement that a carrier may remove a passenger from an airplane only upon a finding that transporting him ‘is or might be inimical to safety.’ Recognizing the need to give carriers a broad discretion in making such a finding, the courts, as noted, have held that it may not be the subject of a claim for damages unless it is found to be arbitrary and capricious. But to say (as defendants essentially argue) that any time an impolite or unpleasant passenger debates a non-safety issue with an airline employee in a boisterous or abusive manner he automatically poses a potential threat to safety would be in effect to set no meaningful limits to the carrier’s exercise of its discretion and thus to eliminate the statutory standard altogether. Where no safety issue is reasonably implicated, even grouches have a right to gripe without being grounded.”

  • MarkKelling

    I know this is a whole different topic, but every FA should be on the clock from the moment they step on a plane until they step off. They are working during that time no matter how you look at it. If an emergency situation happens during this time, are they expected to NOT help the passengers on the plane because they are not officially on the clock? I think not.

  • wiseword

    A pox on both of them. A little old lady, pregnant woman, handicapped person, etc. asking for help would be legitimate, although the airline may have rules against “stewards” doing this (liability). I think it was all right for the passenger to ask, but then to accept the refusal. The crew sound like hysterical idiots.

  • kierah

    FAA – flight attendants with attitudes should not get to act like bullies. We have seen flight crew on camera acting up towards passengers. If the passenger has a funky attitude, the flight crew are supposed to be trained to deal with it. To ask the passenger to take it outside, goes way beyond the bounds of anything I’ve seen in any service industry. I hope he got the number of a fellow passenger who witnessed this.
    Most of you are getting really off track by the journalism bit. It didn’t add or diminish credibility to the story.

  • EdB

    I agree about being on the clock. I never could understand how their union would allow that when other employers have to include walk time from the employee entrance to their duty station.

  • y_p_w

    I think it’s been stated that the proper procedure if one has carry-on (which is still complimentary on most airlines) and needs assistance, is to request a gate check. At that point an airline employee authorized to handle luggage will do so and not a flight attendant (whose job description doesn’t include any heavy lifting).

    If one requires help, it can be requested. All airlines will provide wheelchairs to move the passenger from the counter to the gate. They’ll have people bring along any carry-on within reason.

    It sounds as if Mr Hillen was treating the FA as a servant, which they most assuredly are not.

  • MarkKelling

    I have seen shorter people stand on the seat to reach the overhead and get annoyed when I offered to help them put their bag up. I don’t think that was the issue (being short in height) for the OP.

  • msMtn

    No, F/As are paid to be on the airplane for safety reasons because the FAA has required it, anything else is secondary. They should be helpful and pleasant because that’s just what humans should be to each other. They are not paid to kowtow and cater to every whim or unreasonable demand by every person who thinks his ability to pay for an airline ticket has also bought him the use of a personal ‘servant’. The flight attendants are not there to wrestle with your ridiculously oversized and over weight piece of carry on luggage which you brought with you because you are too important to wait at baggage claim like the “little people”. If you can’t find a place for it, they will try to locate one for you, if there isn’t one or your bag won’t fit, they will make it possible for you to gate check it. As a final point, an aircraft is private property owned by a privately operated company and the crew works for, is paid by, and represents the interests of that privately owned entity, as such, they are the final authority on that aircraft. Do some of them overstep that authority? Most likely, but I would guess, from personal experience, that the number of F/As overstepping their bounds is dwarfed by the number of passengers doing the same. Next time you decide to get demanding or indignant, remember that they are the final word and they can have you removed. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it.

  • FishySounding

    Everyone who opens a blog is a journalist these days. Yeesh.

  • FishySounding

    Unless someone has a degree in Journalism from an accredited university and worked at a real news operation they probably haven’t. Anyone can open a blog and call themselves a journalist, and most do.

  • msMtn

    I have a step mother in her eighties. She has a son who is an airline pilot, a son-in-law who is a retired airline pilot, a step daughter who is a former F/A, a daughter-in-law who is an F/A, and a granddaughter who is a former F/A, and she understands how it works. She doesn’t feel comfortable about her ability to lift a carry-on bag into the bin, therefore she checks her bag. If for any reason, a passenger is unable or unwilling to stow their own bag, it needs to be checked. Your luggage is your responsibility, no one elses.

  • Tom_Blackwell

    From the above it appears the Captain should have done just a little more to get the facts. I’ll have to think about the final resolution of this one before considering flying on AA again.

    “The captain said he did not know what the situation was all about but
    that both the steward and purser had requested my removal and that he
    had to do so.”

  • EdB

    I don’t believe it was an issue in this case either. It was just a thought that came to mind from a couple posts implying if you can’t lift your bag to the overhead bin it was because it was too heavy. Just pointing out that there are other reasons besides weight.

  • EdB

    But should a person have to pay the checked baggage fee because they are not tall enough to reach? As others have mentioned in regards to this question, gate checking is an option.

  • @Miami510:disqus Your solution shows a lack of understanding on how the unions run the airline. All “lines,” ie routes, are bid on by seniority on a monthly basis. The airline has no ability to interfere in the bidding process unless the FA has a special skill required for a certain job (ie a Spanish speaker on a route to Spain). There is no ability to stick a 22 year seniority on reserve (the worst job a FA can get) until they retire. Sorry but your solution doesn’t work within their constraints. They are also not going to do anything when 3 members of the flight crew (FA, Purser and Capt) are all in agreement that the OP needed to be walked.

  • emanon256

    Thank you for all you do and your post! I have friends who are FAs and I know how hard your job is and know how badly you are treated. I also used to travel 100,000 to 150,000 miles a year for many years and still can’t believe how nasty many of the passengers are to the FAs who are simply following the rules and keeping us safe. While I have seen FAs who may be having a bad day or who are short with people, I can completely understand it after seeing how they are treated all day. Also, over 99% of the FAs I see are always incredibly nice and courteous while ensuring our safety. I don’t understand why people always think the FAs are servants here to do whatever they want. I also hate it when the pax get mad at the FA who can’t leave the door during boarding and complain that they are doing nothing while they are actually working the door. You have a thankless job, and I for one appreciate FAs. They work very hard, and receive only grief. I always thank mine, and correct passengers who complain about them.

  • EdB

    I also hate it when the pax get mad at the FA who can’t leave the door during boarding and complain that they are doing nothing while they are actually working the door.

    This is in no way meant as a negative to the FAs. I find it interesting that the FA don’t start getting paid until the door closes yet they still have to “work” while the doors are opened? This has never made sense to me. Personally I feel the pay should start the moment they enter the aircraft. Whoever agreed to that clause in the contract sure didn’t do any favors for the members it seems.

  • JenniferFinger

    Reminds me of that case several years ago when a woman and her family got thrown off a Delta flight because of (allegedly) an overly hostile and aggressive flight attendant. I always wondered how that ultimately turned out.

  • MarkKelling

    Sorry, that was 25 KG for the weight. Or 50 lb.

  • oldft

    …and while you’re at it, you might teach the crewman a little English grammar!

  • Bill___A

    I think there is a bigger issue here of the law being that you must follow the flight crew’s directions or be in violation of the law. Perhaps, when the plane is on the ground, “normal laws” should prevail and the “flight attendant being God” think can be left to the air. One has to be meek while on the plane and often bite your lip.
    Anyway, I don’t think I would want to employ the flight attendant nor deal with the passenger.

  • y_p_w

    I think in those cases the correct way to handle it is that the passenger gets the free carry-on sized luggage, but it gets gate checked where someone authorized to do so does the heavy lifting.

  • Seinfeld episode.

  • Richard

    I witnessed a similar situation on a United Express flight. One of the passengers got in a minor conflict with the flight attendant and was kicked off the flight. Sure, the airline has the power to do it but should be judicious in exercising this prerogative. In the case I witnessed, the flight attendant was just not having a good day and the passenger suffered for it.

  • gracekelley

    Actually our goverment says we do not have to go up with anyone that intimidates us so while it is a humorous statement. This whole thing would have been avoided had the passenger educated himself on the policies and not called someone a steward with the common scence to know it is offensive to men fa’s and had the fa replied with sure sir let me get that for you. Do you have any medicine or lithium batteries in here? Cause I will be happy to gate check it for you. Like magic people can then manage to hoist it themselves or it just got gate checked. IMHO

  • gracekelley

    Nyuck nyuck nyuck.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Was that the diva in MCO? Cuz that’s one of my favorite cases…never heard how it ended.

  • gracekelley

    This is not a union issue it is us airlines being deregulated issue. Not all airlines even have unions. If you do have a union they will not help you if you are hurt on “non” flight hours though that is about as far as union goes on that issue. Pilots too they are paid the exact same way when the door shuts. Delays etc no pay

  • sahlsmith

    Without having witnessed the exchange firsthand, you have to fall-back on the flight crew’s responsibility and authority.

    There is a misconception among some travelers that crew-members are employed exclusively for the passenger’s comfort. While that might be part of the job description, crew-members are primarily charged with passenger safety and keeping order. They have the authority to deny boarding to anyone who compromises either or both of these responsibilities.

    In 40+ years of frequent flying, I’ve seen unruly passengers and discourteous flight attendants. There are effective ways to deal with both situations, but causing a scene on-board the plane is not acceptable.

    And finally, if passengers can’t stow their carry-on luggage without assistance, they should check it.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    This attendant sounds like he was a jerk and possibly slightly crazy. That being said, no way do I want court cases over whether the people clearly in charge of the flight really have the authority to be in charge.

  • Randy Culpepper

    Many of us are trained to remain objective in our professional duties, but a conflict of interest is a conflict of interest.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Crazy logic you’re using there, Chris. Journalists disagree with each other CONSTANTLY. (In print, in the newsroom…they love to debate and argue.) How exactly does that fit in with their only dealing with “facts”?

  • Tom Brown

    You would be in a ‘no win’ situation yourself if you chose to mediate. Both parties were at fault here; each should take the high road and apologize and move on.

  • y_p_w

    I don’t think technically one is in violation of the law in all cases, but the authority of the air crew to have a passenger removed is absolute. Just don’t anyone forget that when getting confrontational with any member of the crew.

  • jmtabb

    Is that person willing to pay for the disability pay, physical therapy and other medical bills for the flight attendant to lift it up there for them? There are several solutions if you can’t lift your own bag up to the overhead bins:

    1. pack a bag small enough to go under the seat in front of you. Bonus – if they are short enough that they can’t reach the overhead bins, they don’t need the room under the seat in front of them to put their legs either.

    2. Step on the seat in order to reach

    3. Count on the kindness of strangers to put your bag away for you and retrieve it when your flight arrives.

    4. Check the bag instead of carrying it on.

    None of those options includes having the flight attendant doing the (heavy) lifting.

  • y_p_w

    I remember I used to have a summer job at an office building while I was in college. We shared a coffee room with a fridge, and our group’s manager authorized a bottled water dispenser. I remember hearing a story that a big guy from the other group (which wasn’t paying for the bottled water) once asked a rather slight employee in our group if she could place a new bottle in the dispenser.

  • Bill___A

    I am of the opinion that the passenger created his own problems. However, it is my feeling that the FA assisted in the problems increasing, rather than to mitigate them.
    I agree with the other posters that everyone should be able to pack and stow their own “carry on”.
    I do my best to obey all laws and be a good passenger. However, if I am mistreated, it tends to cost the offending party’s company in the pocketbook.
    In this case, I don’t think Chris should help the guy and American should review things internally from their end.

  • lvswhippets

    Only once did a FA refuse to put my bag in upper bin. He told me I shouldn’t carry anything too heavy for me to lift. Since I am quite short & a senior citizen (no excuse I guess) I just stood up on the seat & put it in myself. End of that situation. Now I usually just take a backpack or a nice gentleman passenger will help me if needed.

  • flutiefan

    don’t “authors” use their imaginations to make up stories?

  • flutiefan

    i have a feeling the “check-in staff” had done their jobs perfectly, and that the bag was within the size/weight limitations, and this guy just didn’t feel he should have to handle it into the overhead bin. JMHO.

  • Michael__K

    “Notice that the airline isn’t claiming it was done for “safety” or “security” reasons; just that the staff felt his behavior was such that they didn’t feel like serving him any more.”

    Actually, they cite Federal Air Regulation 91.11, which — relying on @LFH0:disqus ‘s citations — is only applicable for safety reasons.

  • flutiefan

    this height-challenged person is more than welcome to request assistance from a fellow passenger, or they may check their bag. Flight Attendants are NOT covered by OSHA/Workers Comp rules and will NOT be paid for an injury sustained from lifting a bag for a customer.

  • Miami510

    I stand corrected…. thanks. I grew up in a union household, but as the pendulum swings from protection of workers to tying the hands of management, I’m waiting for the pendulum to complete its arc and reverse course. As things stand now, the only solution for the public is to “vote with their feet,” and fly another airline.

  • Michael__K

    FAs haven’t been “stewards” for decades and they find the term demeaning.

    Aside from the fact that using an arcane term isn’t a safety issue or grounds for removal, what even makes you think the use of the terms “steward” (and “purser”) originated with the OP and not with the captain?

    “The captain said he did not know what the situation was all about but that both the steward and purser had requested my removal and that he had to do so.”

  • gracekelley

    One must educate oneself on aviation in america before flying or you will have a terrible experience. If you think it is safe to let passenegers do 100% what they want i question the safety of anyone on a plane with you.

  • little old lady

    That doesn’t alter my original post. Sorry, it’s cocktail time for us old timers.

  • little old lady

    I either need to refine my computer skills or stop drinking……………. I am not retracting my earlier post, which was correct! I am, however, appalled that my original post was not included in Mr. Elliot’s twitter post, which made me look foolish because of my lack of computer skills and more. Thank you so much for making fun of those who were born before the internet boom.
    I will never post here again. ( I actually knew this before, but sometimes I forget due to senility.

  • empress

    if a purser got involved u know he was a jerk. crew do not remove passengers so easily as so much paperwork and documentation is in olved, including witnesses. unless hillen can provide witnesses on his behalf, the guy basically was uncooperative and was most likely antagonizing the situation and now acting like a victim. he’s on his own.

  • Leslie B

    Maybe the flight attendant was out of line but no one should expect the flight attendant to help with baggage. If you can’t load it in the overhead yourself then you should have checked it.

  • Well, Chris, I owe you a partial apology. I had been misreading that sentence all morning long:

    “Oh, and there’s one more thing I forgot to mention: Hillen isn’t just any passenger. He’s an author and journalist. That lends some credibility to his version of the story, at least in his estimation.” I swear I read this three times and read it as:

    “Oh, and there’s one more thing I forgot to mention: Hillen isn’t just any passenger. He’s an author and journalist. That lends some credibility to his version of the story, at least in MY estimation.” (emphasis added)

    So mea culpa on that one. I’d blame it on my cat for waking me up in the middle of the night to give me a present, though I obviously read through it too fast. I was also confused by your earlier response to sirwired, which seemed to imply that you agreed that his story should be given more weight than normal because he is a journalist, but maybe I read too much into it after initially misreading the quote.

    I also think you are misinterpreting the rest of my statement. I’m not saying you personally have lost credibility. What I was trying to say was that by automatically lending additional weight to the word of a journalist, the story you are trying to present loses credibility in the eyes of some readers. I can see now that wasn’t clear the way I wrote it, but that’s what was intended.

  • bodega3

    The OP sounds like he was a bit of a jerk, plain and simple.

  • tim uk 82

    If the guy is a journalist and author, he should write about the incident and organize his readers into boycotting AA.

    Sometimes, a groundswell is such that the airline eventually has to respond in a better way…. Recall the broken guitar episode UA had to deal with


    If he is INDEED a journalist and author.

    And while I’m not a fighter at all and I’m not prepared to go to fisticuffs, if the FA did indeed invite him to take to the tarmac, I would probably have accepted that and seen the reaction of the FA. If they HAD ended up on the tarmac, the captain would have known something was amiss… with his attendant.

    Nothing to be gained by mediating this one.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Uh, isn’t that what I said?

  • Guest

    Are there witness statements from other PAX?

  • Are there witness statements from the passengers that allegedly viewed the confrontation? What about the PAX that said he was leaving with them??

  • backprop

    heck no. just the OP’s hearsay about other passengers supposedly arguing about their deboarding.

  • backprop

    It doesn’t matter IMO. A journalist would not be expected to cover a story about, say, his own failure to pay taxes or the murder of one of his family members. Nobody can be entrusted to be impartial when telling their side of the story.

  • TonyA_says

    And what would that change, gettoing paid on another basis, do different?

  • Alan Gore

    Sorry, I forgot. It’s an airline, so it’s above the law and it can pee on its customers at will.

  • EdB

    Huh? Don’t quite follow what you are asking/saying.

    What would change? The FAs would get paid for the work they have to do before the doors are closed. They don’t just stand there doing nothing while the plane is loading. Right now, they don’t get paid for that work.

  • FlyGirl

    I voted no because I have been in these situations on an aircraft several times over the years. It is a passenger’s responsibility to lift and stow his or her own baggage. It is correct that US Flight Attendants face many difficulties after these types of injuries. Based on the description of the incident, it is likely that they both had an attitude. Frankly, people tend to exaggerate things in an attempt to reduce their role in the retelling of conflict and I get the feeling that that is the case here. I can assure you that the flight attendant was called in by his supervisor and questioned at length concerning the incident. He would have been reminded of the company’s customer relations expectations whether or not he admitted fault. He would have left the meeting with plenty to think about even if he was not disciplined. I have read many comments about this being an ‘after 9/11’ situation when, in fact, interfering with a crewmember is not a new regulation. Since 9/11 airlines have finally started backing their flight attendants when problems have developed on aircraft. In almost all cases these removals are justified. We are trained to evaluate these situations and make decisions based on that training. I have never had someone removed from an aircraft, but I would not hesitate to do so if I felt that the situation would escalate once in the air. In-flight is the very last place anyone wants to deal with any type of security issue. We have a responsibility to each and every person on that aircraft to provide a safe journey. A continuation of a conflict begun on the ground would place everyone on the aircraft at risk and THAT is our job.

  • naoma

    Do not think this one needs “mediation.” Sounds like passengers were those “sort of people” who think they are somewhat better than the rest of us.

  • gracekelley

    Exactly!! It absolutely humors me people think the airlines do not investigate these incidents at length at contact witnesses but nope it is all “fa on a cop trip”. I’d like to see anyone person do our job just 1 day that thinks we should just let people feel100% right all the time and ignore regs. Let them come see what we see and feel on the lines and these comments about nasty FA’s and 100% service will stop. Sure there are bad apples in every proffesion, but it’s s very unique job & nobody is gonna go up with an intimidator refardless of what it is they are being taunted about. Get them 30k ft and let someone start and see how they feel. All these people that just assume people will be heroes is just not true all the time let them get an american passenger screaming two inches from their face while everyone just watches, let them come home with bruises from peoples lack of judgements, get hurt once on that aircraft it would change but they do not do it so don’t expect them to understand. In this case “the customers always right” will not sway your waisting your time trying to explain. Let them say whatever they want but the ones so that want servants probably would be crying in the lav after one flight of full americans & lets put the faa onboard to fine them if they don’t have regs in check see how they deal with it & if the ” customer is right”. I’d pay big $ to see.

  • JenniferFinger

    It could have been. It’s one of my favorite cases too, because if the woman’s story was true, it really was outrageous behavior on the flight attendant’s part. I asked Chris about that case once, and he said it went to court, but that’s the last I heard-I don’t know if it settled or was decided one way or the other.

  • Kevin Mathews

    I think it’s time to use that investigative journalism and let us know…

  • mbods

    Horrible behavior on the steward’s part. Really scary actually. Airplane customers are held hostage by crazy flight crew….one more reason I don’t fly anymore!

  • gracekelley

    Thank you for the nice words and I appreciate someone notices! I always enjoy business travlers and they are sometimes the first ones to come to your aid when one gets aggressive in flight. I know there are some aggressive FA’s out there they embaress me, but most of them have been through some serious stuff and like I said in another comment i see them getting results while when I am polite all i get is ignored and/or grief. You sound like a golden flyer and hope you were treated as such. Maybe one day things will be regulated again and everyone can be happy. I just do not think there is a way for a 1-3 time a year flyer to see or understand what we see and feel on the line and someone that flies 100k and plus miles and year may see and understand more so and is why you rarely heat about business travlers in these squables. I would never have handled it the same as said FA but it is a lost cause. You can bet american did indeed speak to multiple individuals and felt the FA was justified in having him put on the next flight. I would be shocked if they retract. Again I appreciate your nice words!

  • gracekelley

    If I were on the clock and covered by insurance and knew I’d be covered for the injury and not have the time missed from work held against me i’d stow bags like a new hire in heels all day long.

  • Bill___A

    When a police officer decides to charge you with something, it has to get by a judge or judge/jury etc. and go through the legal system. However, with a lot of flying issues, any random flight attendant is judge/jury etc. There’s no accountability for them.
    In this case, I suspect the passenger was not ideal, nor was the crew member.

  • EdB

    There was one sentence in the story that caught my attention but no one else has mentioned.

    “He walked to his seat, sat down next to his wife, and told her what happened.”

    Walked to his seat? So it sounds like he wasn’t using the bin directly over his seat. Makes me wonder if those bins were already full or if he was one of those people we have discussed that put their carry on in the front of the plane and sits in the rear.

  • Tones

    Had this allegation of such behavior by the “steward” happened 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. But these days, I can SO picture a flight attendant speaking to a passenger that way, especially a bitter American Airlines one. It was inappropriate, but I must say… it is NOT the duty of a flight attendant to lift YOUR carry-on that you probably overpacked into the bin. Can’t lift your own CARRY-on? Check it. And only a moron would keep egging on the flight attendant. This passenger got what he asked for.

  • Chasmosaur

    Curious about the status of Mr. Hillen’s journalistic credentials, I did some basic Google-Fu. His bio is found here, at the website promoting his book, “Digging for Dracula.”


    Despite dropping the names of a few newspapers that he either wrote for or edited over the past 30 years (a phrase that shows up frequently), I cannot find anything publicly available under his byline. If anyone has access to LexisNexis – he has claimed to write for US papers, so surely he has articles in there – I’d be interested to see exactly what he’s written.

    Also, he claims in the bio to have at one time been a “board member and chairperson of the US Fulbright Commission” in Eastern Europe. When I subsequently searched for him using “Sean Hillen Fulbright Commission”, I came up with this article from February of this year:


    *Edited to add: the trip in question does appear to be the same one that Chris is looking to mediate. I looked up MACLA, and I find it interesting that the man they claim had them removed from their hotel room is the man who founded the charity. You have to wonder if Mr. Hillen was a welcome volunteer.*

    What I see is a man who claims many, many titles for himself. And also seems to dramatize – or even catastrophize – many aspects of his life.

    Also part of his “Digging for Dracula” bio claims that he has written “several books on journalism and media training.” I checked Amazon (US and UK), Alibris and LoveReading.co.uk – the only book I can find for him is “Digging for Dracula”. Perhaps there are other sources we can search – he certainly doesn’t have his own website, for a man of such prodigious literary talent and productivity. (Not to mention self promotional skill.)

    I know you’re a busy man, Chris Elliott, but this took me about 20 minutes to search on Google. I firmly elect “no” to mediating this case, as I don’t find Mr. Hillen to appear overly credible. Granted, it’s broad evidence, but you certainly need to suspend any credibility you are lending to him based on his titles of “author and journalist.”

  • Daniel W

    Whoa – hold on a sec: I get that we’re only seeing one side of the story here. I’m very much aware that things probably didn’t go exactly as the OP claims, and I’m willing to bet good money that he wasn’t as gentle and passive as he portrays himself – but I think we’re all forgetting something: the FA threatened violence, and that’s way beyond unacceptable. Or what the heck do we all think he meant by this “let’s go out (…) and deal with this, just you and me”? No serious company would (or should) tolerate that kind of behavior from an employee.
    BTW, it’s not the first time I hear about FAs going on power trips and behaving like a-holes, because they’re under this delusion of grandeur (pardon my spelling): if their job was truly to “save peoples’ lives”, they’d be out of a job: no company will pay half-a-dozen employees to board a flight just in case an event as unlikely as a plane crash takes place. Theirs is an honorable profession, and I’m glad they’re trained to deal with an emergency if there’s ever one – but their day job is NOT about fighting fires or saving lives: it’s about caring for their customers. And that’s something this particular FA clearly didn’t do.

  • Tones

    I agree with most of what you write, BUT the only reason FAs are on planes is because the FAA mandates it. Otherwise, airlines would literally not hire flight attendants. So, a company MUST hire the half-dozen attendants; it has no choice. And it will use the FAA mandate’s stated goal of passenger safety as a way of shirking any responsibility to provide good customer service.

  • Nica


    I found a link for Mr. Hillen, but I am not sure if this is the same one that Mr. Elliott is referring to: http://www.justluxe.com/community/view-profile.php?p_id=12045

  • Nica

    If it is the same one, he wrote a book called, “Digging for Dracula”. I found a link here as well: http://www.justluxe.com/community/view-profile.php?p_id=12045

  • Lindabator

    They don’t HAVE to justify the removal – they are given a lot of latitude by the FAA in those situations, as dealing with an escalating situation in-air is nothing that needs to be pushed.

  • Lindabator

    YOUR bags are YOUR responsibility, NO ONE ELSE’s

  • Lindabator

    They owe him NO apology! He had the original flight attendant, and then a 2nd one (who came over to diffuse the situation) BOTH make the decision to eject him – and then he STILL insisted on talking to the captain, who chose to eject him at that point. I think we are not getting the entire story here, and frankly, this sounds like a very “entitled” passenger pushing the issue, LOSING, and now wanting someone to kiss his …….

  • Lindabator

    Wanting something, and that something being required, are two different things. Problem was solved when they removed him from the flight and flew him out on another.

  • Lindabator

    I am a travel agent of over 20 years – and before that worked for an airline. Yes, passengers do get more and more of a sense of entitlement, but want those caviar dreams for the fish sticks air ticket prices. Me, and anyone I travel with, smile, say hello, follow directions, STILL always listen to the safety messages and lift our own gear. NOT the FAs job to put up with our need to have our behinds kissed. :)

  • Lindabator

    He is not even REQUIRED to hear out the passenger! This isn’t a time or place for negotiations – you become beligerent, to both the first FA, and then the senior FA – you get tossed.

  • Lindabator

    But that is a PUBLIC issue – what everyone here is forgetting is that an airline is a PRIVATE corporation, and as such can have you removed if they feel threatened or intimidated – same as any restaurant or store can.

  • Lindabator

    True – and this DID escalate – he was also asked to deplane by the senior FA, so they must have seen this as a possible bigger problem as the flight continued, and decided to eject him to avoid that situation.

  • Lindabator

    THANK YOU! My point exactly. He escalated the situation, which lead to his ejection from the flight. The right choice for all involved.

  • tvlCCS

    Just because you are an author and a journalist does not make your version correct. When a person writes and says it was all someone else’s fault then I start to doubt the story immediately. Reality on this one probably lies somewhere in between what we are told. And I am bothered by why this man needed help with his carry on bag. I have had enough spinal surgery to make a neurosurgeon wince but manage never to ask for help with my carry on luggage. I am curious as to what AA will say.

  • Lindabator

    I find it LAUGHABLE to even think he actually threatened that – this passenger sounds like the one with a screw loose – and 2 FAs seemed to think so here. IF the senior FA thought there was even a small problem with the 1st FA, that FA would have been written up. Didn’t happen, so don’t believe this “threat” to go fight outside, or “other” passengers choosing to deplane with him is valid either (really?)

  • tvlCCS

    What about the “journalists” caught plagiarizing? And authors caught in the same situation? You might be trained to report “just the facts” but too many are now reporting their opinions and editing the facts to suit their purpose.

  • y_p_w

    Well – yes.

    American Airlines has its conditions of carriage. Its authority to decide to put off a passenger is absolute, and they are the arbiters of whether or not their standards for putting off a passenger have been met. You’ll find pretty much the same standards if you board a boat or take a train.

    AA’s only caveat is that a refused passenger have the right to a full refund of that segment.

  • Joe Farrell

    The flight attendants need to pass an FAA physical which includes a psychological evaluation . . . American now has evidence of a psychologically challenged flight attendant and is legally required to follow up this contact.

    Whether they think they have a problem or not is up to them – but based on the story they do. And now they are on notice of the issue.

    From a practical reality standpoint a Captain is going to exercise zero judgment and simply remove the person from the airplane because he needs to deal with the drama queens in the main cabin for the rest of his career and getting a reputation for not supporting them will make his life very hard very quickly. . . .

  • bayareascott

    One person’s story is NOT “evidence.” I have yet to see the first letter to an airline that was not at the very least embellished in order to…..get compensation from the airline! There are more sides than just the O.P., and in my opinion, he sounds rather entitled.

  • bayareascott

    Not all journalists are reporters.

  • Tom_Blackwell

    When he admits he “did not know what the situation was all about” he or someone needed to find out. It’s not about negotiation. If on the other hand he knew the situation, that would be different. That needs to be resolved one way or the other – – for others like me to either have confidence in the airline, or no confidence in them. Before I buy a ticket I want it to be with an airline where I believe I have confidence.

  • pauletteb

    If you can’t lift your own damn bag, you’re probably over the legal limit (if airlines bothered to weight carry-ons). The OP treated the FA like a servant and got exactly the response he deserved . . . including getting kicked off the plane. And why does his being “an author and a journalist” give the OP extra credence? They’re no more than job titles and seem to be badges of self-importance in this case.

  • pauletteb

    And “journalists” never stretch the truth?

  • pauletteb

    Since you’re the one who brought in the journalist track, it’s unfair to complain when others call you to task for it.

  • pauletteb

    And don’t forget Faux News!

  • estatemanager1

    I’m with the commenter who called this guy an entitled jackass. That’s not their job – who doesn’t freakin’ know this by now??

    And he was shocked by the ‘rather uncouth’ response after he sassed the man by asking just what his onboard job was, anyway, if not to act like a bellman? Yes, I’m clutching my pearls now in surprise. Flight attendants are not bloody lackeys, and this man sounds like an obnoxious douche. Really surprised you’re giving him any traction, Chris.

  • Bill___A

    That was going to be my guess too!

  • georgia hollinger

    AA has recently posted a very sensible policy regarding carry on luggage, which I have always believed to be correct.
    If you can’t stow it, if you can’t carry it, you should check it.
    The New Yorker had a cover last summer of a guy shoving his car into the overhead.
    Carry on luggage is your own damn responsibility.
    I’ve been hit on the head and arms so many times by people dragging stuff out of the overhead that it isn’t even funny anymore.
    American has decided to “reward” those passengers who check their stuff instead of dragging it on board, by charging those who do, and not those who check. Think of the time and hassle saved boarding and unloading if you were not waiting for all that stuff to get dragged off the plane.
    I am so old, I remember that overhead was for pillows and blankets, etc. stuff the passengers might need or want during a flight.
    Security could be lessened and made a lot quicker if all you had was a bag and a computer. Not a bag which contained everything you needed for an entire trip, unless it was a 4 X 5 bag which fit under the seat in front of you.

  • Daniel W

    You make a valid point, Tones. However, have a look at this job description for flight attendants (this is from USAirways, but I think it should be very similar to United’s).


    Notice that they’re in charge of providing safety AND COMFORT, and the very first line under “PRINCIPAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES” is “Provide exemplary customer service to all aspects of the cabin”. Here’s the fift point: “Provide special assistance to passengers, including stowing luggage in overhead compartments, emergency medical aid, and wheelchair assistance”.

  • zakany

    “So someone who’s height is not sufficient enough to reach the overhead storage shouldn’t be allowed carry on?”

    That’s exactly what I’m saying. If you can’t stow your bags properly – for whatever reason – then don’t bring them into the cabin. Too short, too feeble, injured, etc. Doesn’t matter. You do not have a right to use the overhead bins. Those areas aren’t assigned to anyone in particular.

    All you’re doing is inconveniencing a couple hundred other folks.

    Get in, sit down, and let’s go.

  • EdB

    Aren’t you an understanding ray of sunshine. And contrary to you feeling, you do have a right to use those bins even if they aren’t assigned. No one has to ask to use them.

    And as mentioned by others here, if there is some physical reason, other than size and weight, the cabin staff could gate check it.

    Also, denying someone use of an amenity available to everyone else based solely on a physical limitation could be a violation of the ADA.

  • Matthew Tarpy

    One has not heard of common carriage, I see. I’m EXP and CK on AA and this F/A sounds like a tool, and should be bounced as quick as possible.

  • gracekelley

    That’s cute. Because when you get hurt they certainly block workmans comp and then write you up for missing work stating “we told you to never lift bags only assist in finding space” we still are not covered when the door is open regardless of what that says.

  • Guest
  • Guest, thanks for posting that. Great column.

  • gracekelley

    I did a little digging on the guy seems he demands he was “treating badly never in such a way in his life” almost anytime he pays for something. Interesting.

  • Since flight attendants are in a career where their ‘clients’ generally do not treat them well, I have to side with the crew. After 9/11, their job changed for the worst, and most of us do not appreciate what they do when they are in a emergency situation. I was on an AA flight when one of the two engines went out over the Atlantic Ocean. First hand, we witnessed the importance of their advise, comfort and general selflessness.I give them all a break even when they are in a bad mood.

  • jebaker

    I have a good friend who is a flight attendant and who ended up having back surgery from lifting a few too many heavy bags. I feel for her and her ability to make a living.

  • Sean Hillen

    As fellow travelers, my wife and I really appreciate all the
    comments to Chris’s suggestion to mediate this situation with American
    Airlines. At the very least, such mediation may help clarify the rules / regulations
    that govern how passengers can be treated on airlines, state-owned or private
    such as AA. As one commentator said, private companies have the right to treat
    customers as they feel fit. At the same time, there must be standards of
    treatment that private airline companies should abide by.
    In our case, let me add some additional points. While I have
    been a journalist, editor and publisher for more than 30 years for
    international publications including Time magazine and The Wall Street Journal,
    the last few as a travel writer, chairperson of a country Fulbright Commission
    and have worked as a volunteer with a number of charity groups, my professional
    background remains unimportant – nobody regardless of creed, color or gender,
    who they are or what they do – should undergo the kind of treatment we
    underwent, so severe that my wife had to be escorted from the plane in a
    wheelchair so emotionally upset was she.
    Regarding the on-board incident, I had only the short
    conversation with the Flight Attendant as Chris described, not asking for
    anything except the FA to help some elderly passengers stow their baggage and
    then after his aggressive response, his name so I could make a formal written
    complaint to AA (he was not wearing a name badge, in fact, did not even have
    the standard uniform vest on). Other passengers around us became quite irate
    and spoke up angrily about the FA’s behavior (my mistake was in not getting
    their names and contact details, but I was more concerned about my wife who had
    become very emotional and had to be helped off the plane and on to a
    The following statement in the AA response letter to me
    later is false: “As our female purser became involved in an attempt to
    defuse matters, this demanding and antagonistic demeanor was ultimately
    witnessed by her as well.” – The purser did not witness any part of my
    conversation with the FA. I was already seated, with my neck pillow and my
    sleeping blinkers on when she came to me to tell me “not to be aggressive to
    her staff.”
    This AA statement in its letter to me was also false: “The
    captain intervened and it was determined that you should not travel on Flight
    662 that day.” – I was the one who demanded to speak to the captain after being
    asked to leave the plane. I wanted to have an explanation as to why I was being
    treated in such a manner.
    In my various letters to AA afterwards I insisted on being
    told how exactly they define a phrase in their letter viz-a-viz “behavior was
    disruptive and a potential distraction to our in-flight personnel.” As yet, I
    have received no explanation.
    We were stuck in Santo Domingo airport for six hours and
    lost our onward connections and car rental etc. The situation became quite a
    mess after that.
    Simply out, that’s our story. But it could be anybody’s story. And I feel
    strongly it is up to all of us to stand up and make sure this kind of thing does
    not happen to any of us again. As paying customers, we deserve
    better. I am more than willing to answer any questions anyone has about
    this incident.

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