A midair confrontation leaves a passenger speechless

Benjamin Levine is still trying to make sense of a confrontation with a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight from London to Dallas.

Adding to his confusion: a passive-aggressive response from the airline that stopped short of an apology. He turned to our advocates for help sorting it out.

First, a few details about Levine. He’s a physician and administrator, and by his own description, a polite and mild-mannered passenger. Most important, he’s an American Airlines Platinum frequent flier and was sitting in business class when the altercation happened.

You’d think the airline would be quick to apologize to such a high-value passenger and do whatever it takes to make it up to him. But like Levine, you’d be wrong.

Levine had a bulkhead row seat, one of the most coveted seats on the aircraft. When the plane took off at 3 p.m., the cabin crew served a meal, and then Levine’s seatmate fell fast asleep.

“Since I had to work the next day seeing patients, it was very important to me to try to reset my internal clock to Central Time as quickly as possible, and there is compelling scientific research that the best way to do this is to be exposed to natural light, which resets circadian rhythms,” he says. “My row mate was quite comfortable leaving the window open, and wore an eye mask, so we agreed to leave it open.”

About two hours later, as he was working, a flight attendant climbed over him and slammed the window shade down.

“When I asked her to please leave it open, she rudely responded, ‘Can’t you see that your row mate is sleeping?’ When I politely pointed out that he had been sleeping quietly for two hours and was clearly not bothered, she pivoted and said that another passenger behind me had asked for the window shade to be pulled down.”

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Levine said he “gently” pushed back, asking if it was typical for a passenger in another seat to have control over his window.

“She exhaled loudly and aggressively,” he reports. “She started yelling at me, pointing her finger in my face, right against my nose, saying that if I didn’t shut up, she was going to call the police when we landed and have me forcibly detained on the ground.”

He adds,

She kept repeating over and over again: “Do you understand? Do not say another word!”

I found this extraordinarily strange, as I was sitting quietly in my seat, not speaking or acting in a threatening manner, and not even challenging her authority -– just trying to keep my window shade open so I could be as alert as possible to take care of patients the next day. This was my main reason for me purchasing a business class ticket.

Levine asked to speak with the purser; his request was denied. So he walked to the back of the plane himself and found the supervisor, who was “quite responsive and after a fair amount of discussion, moved the flight attendant to another part of the plane.”

Levine describes the incident as an “assault.” He says the only reason he didn’t go to the police was that the purser defused the situation.

“However, I was so flustered that I could not work for the rest of the flight, essentially ruining a quite expensive ticket,” he says.

So what now?

A brief, polite, written complaint usually works best for complicated grievances like this one. After calling American and discussing the issue with a representative, that’s exactly what Levine did. Here’s American’s response:

Your report of confrontation with our crew member is serious to us, and we have treated the matter accordingly.

It is our policy to look at the whole picture, as we are sure you will agree that an internal review is the only fair and reasonable way to address concerns of this nature.

Your report was shared with the appropriate Manager in our Flight Services Department and the matter was discussed with the crew member you identified.

She reported that she was in fact reacting to a request from another passenger to have your window shade lowered, and she found that you responded to her in an aggressive manner.

She reported that you quickly became rather loud and threatening in your tone with her over the issue of the window shade.

As discussed, flight attendants are the ultimate 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.

Nevertheless, by your account of matters it is apparent that she may have been less-than diplomatic in her approach to the situation. Accordingly, we have counseled with our crew member to ensure an understanding of how certain words or actions may be interpreted by our customers.

We have emphasized the importance of courtesy and effective communication, especially in handling problems. We have reviewed our procedures for properly addressing similar issues that may arise in the future.

Please be assured that we have used your feedback in a constructive manner; however, as a matter of policy, we do not enlist our employees in the conveyance of personal apologies after-the-fact. We appreciate your understanding.

Dr. Levine, we truly value your loyalty and support and are eager to continue the beneficial relationship we have developed to date. We are all working hard to ensure that every flight you take on American is enjoyable and that your every contact with our people is pleasant and productive. Please continue to travel with us often.

His response?

“I must admit that I am quite offput by being accused by the flight attendant as being the aggressor, and by AA hiding behind the Federal Air Regulation 91.11 as if I was a villain putting the plane at risk,” he says. “I am a 59-year-old professor of medicine, and can’t remember when anyone spoke to me in such a rude and threatening fashion. There is no possible way that anyone could have found my asking a few questions about my window shade in any way putting the plane or other passengers at risk. It reminds me of the current dialogue going around the country about the authority of the police and shooting unarmed individuals.”

Levine just wants an apology and he wants American to try to make things right for him. Remember, he’s a top-level elite who bought a business-class ticket. The airline went through all the trouble to segment its passengers with its deceptive loyalty programs; why can’t it now lavish this elite with apologies, miles and vouchers?

I haven’t asked American about this case yet. I told Levine I would bring his case to you, this site’s readers, and ask what you think. Should I advocate for him to get more than a defensive email? Or is there enough reason to believe that the flight attendant’s account is accurate, and that he was the aggressor? (And if that’s true, then maybe he should be apologizing to American?)

I don’t know. There’s something about this case that just feels wrong. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe you can.

Should I take Benjamin Levine'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.

  • Stephen0118

    Two questions come to my mind: 1. If it were the passenger behind him, why didn’t he request to verify that with the passenger behind him?
    2. What type of airplane is it (737, 757, A300, etc.). I don’t know how American configures its
    business class, but, as far as I know (I’ve flown in Business first on United), bulkhead gets two windows and I don’t remember the second window intruding into the row behind. I know in a 737 coach, if you’re sitting behind bulkhead, you do get to “see” the window of the passenger in front, so it is possible that the daylight does affect you, but again this is business class, so it shouldn’t be an issue.

    I say YES, mediate.

  • Nigel Appleby

    This seems like a typical he says – she says situation. Without a 3rd party to join the discussion I don’t think this would be resolved. If the supervisor could be found some confirmation might be obtained but I suspect after the event he/she would probably back up the flight attendant in question.

  • Flight attendants should wear body cams, like police. Problem solved,

  • MF

    PAX should also have pen-type pocket cams, as the FA’s cam might get ‘accidentally erased’, if the FA’s behavior is not justified by their employer’s policies.

  • CC Gorman

    This happened because someone 3 feet away lacked the courtesy to ask you about the window himself. My grandmother would have called the other passenger “backwards”

    I can understand how the incident would have riled the doctor up( I often waste my time ruminating when things like this happen). I just don’t think you’re going to get any more satisfaction from the airline. Let it go.

  • Bill___A

    Without taking into consideration the particulars of this case I can say that it is quite common to lower all of the shades during a transatlantic flight to make the entire cabin dark and that one open shade defeats the whole purpose, right or wrong.

    I do think some flight attendants power trip too much but the good doctor should be aware that they do drop the shades quite frequently (as in all the time) for these flights.

  • Fishplate

    I’m pretty sure he was treated with something less than respect. And I’m sure that he was made uncomfortable. I’m also pretty sure that the entire flight wasn’t “ruined”. However, it’s just as likely that the flight was not ruined for the person in the row behind who wanted darkness. So who wins? My thinking is: Your row, your shade.

    Bigger picture: Is there a life safety component to the position of the window shades? Maybe there needs to be a distinction in the reach and power of the flight crew. If it doesn’t affect flight controls or security, maybe it should be up for discussion, instead of dictating.

    And finally, if you are threatened by another person, feel free to have the authorities investigate, so that the results become public knowledge. Maybe the airline did something – plenty of punishment available for an FA on an overseas flight schedule – but we will never know.

  • JenniferFinger

    I agree that some part of this story seems to be missing. I would take the case just to find out what it is.

  • LostInMidwest

    This time I voted “No” and I very rarely take the poll. In this he-says-she-says I actually believe flight attendant more. If he feels that strong about his “right” to natural light, I have no problem believing he was aggressive first. Flight ruined? Puh-lease …

    There is something else here, too. There is this pervasive and very, very annoying habit quite a few people in this country have where they LOVE to solve their problems by making it somebody else’s or everybody else’s problem. You know? The lady too distracted by checking her tweeter feeds lines up in left turn only lane at the traffic light? And then proceeds to sit through green blocking everybody else behind so she can go straight when that green light goes on? And if you honk, you are actually the a-hole? Yeah, THAT habit. So, this dear doctor has a problem with natural light. It is his, God gave it to him and nobody else. I believe he should solve with without making it somebody else’s or everybody else’s problem.

    Finally, I personally believe that airlines should make it a rule (like with shades up during takeoff and landing) on flights over 3 hours. Seat belt off, shades down (mandatory). Seat belts on for landing, shades up (mandatory).

  • Ribit

    This is similar to the same old, grumpy, unhappy flight attendant in business class on a Dallas-London flight on AA a few years ago (last time we flew AA). After boarding was completed, I asked the flight attendant if there was a closet nearby so I could hang up my suit jacket. She went crazy for a few seconds admonishing me that she would get to it on her schedule. I was not asking her to hang up the jacket but simply where was the closet. This flight attendant seemed to be looking for a reason for confrontation.

  • MarkKelling

    So, if he wasn’t a high level frequent flyer or a doctor and simply bought a full fare business class seat, the flight attendant’s actions would have been OK? That’s what I got from the article.

  • AJPeabody

    Do nothing. The bureaucratic bafflegab in the airline letter plus the fact that the flight attendant’s supervisor reassigned her during the flight means that the airline knows she was out of line and did whatever it does in the way of discipline and/or re-education. They will never say anyone was wrong (lawyers!).

    And saying “I am important, do it my way or the flight is ruined” is just a bit over the top.

    Voted no, as nothing good will come from continuing the confrontation.

  • Rebecca

    What’s missing is what he actually wants. If he wants an apology, he got the apology he’s going to get, in the form of a letter that’s been approved by legal. No business, especially one whose employees are unionized, is going to tell him what hr decisions were made, if any, to discipline the employee. If he wants to point out how educated he is, he should know this.

    I believe we would have a MUCH clearer picture of how his attitude influenced the FA’s actions and how aggressively he behaved if we knew how much compensation he was requesting. That detail tends to be very telling. The complainers that demand a free first class flight halfway around the world for a customer service issue tend to also be the confrontational type.

  • “She [the flight attendant] reported that you quickly became rather loud and threatening in your tone with her over the issue of the window shade.”

    I know who I believe it’s not her!

    Even American agree i.e. “Nevertheless, by your account of matters it is apparent that she may have been less-than diplomatic in her approach to the situation.”

    Had she exercised diplomacy – she was trained in that field, surely? – there would be no story here.

  • Nathan Witt

    Well, by his account, he DID check with the other passenger in his row to make sure the shade wouldn’t bother her and obtained her consent before raising it. Your tone and wording makes me think you have a pretty low opinion of the OP, but also that if an airline employee stomped into your space and slammed your window shade down without a word, you might also expect an apology.

  • sofar

    Did he check with every, single passenger in his section? Even the people across the aisle may have been bothered by the light if they were trying to sleep.

    Personally, I wear an eyemask, so it wouldn’t matter to me. But I have noticed that, on most international flights, they make an announcement saying everyone must close their windows so that passengers have the option of sleeping.

    I get why he wanted natural light. But does this trump the needs of the guy who has been traveling for three days straight and who has a three-hour drive home from the airport (which he needs to be awake for) and is hoping to get a few hours of sleep?

    Not everyone is going to be happy, but, if the airline announces all shades need to be down, those instructions should be followed. Not sure if such a thing was announced on this flight, but, in my experience with flying American Airlines internationally, they always do.

    The flight attendant strikes me as incredibly rude, though. She could have said, “Sir, it’s our policy that we close all shades during flights of more than X hours,” instead of leaning in and slamming the shade down.

  • LostInMidwest

    I am not excluding that flight attendant might have slammed the window down, I only have no problem believing that the situation escalated starting from OP.

    Let me put it this way … you have a guy boarding the plane who needs to listen to his specific music so he can adjust to whatever. But … he cannot wear headphones so he brought a boombox on the plane. If altercation happens, would you have a problem believing that the boombox guy started it? I see this as exactly the same thing.

    When somebody starts with “I am special so I did …” then ends with “… and they were so rude and stopped me!” that pretty much tells me most that I need to know. Not all I need to know about what happened, but enough to make a call.

  • Skeptic

    If you plan to sleep on a flight that occurs in daylight, bring an eyeshade. They are small and light — I never travel without one. And even if the light in the cabin interferes with your entertainment viewing experience, please understand that to some pax — including people like me who always try to book a window seat — that light and view is quite important. Not only does it help establish destination circadian rhythms, but for those of us who live in the far north, daylight is like gold in the winter. No, I’m not willing to forgo the only direct sunlight I’ve seen in months just so you can watch your movie.

    Shades are not safety equipment. The only time I think an FA is justified in demanding that a shade be closed is when the plane just landed in a tropical location where the sunlight quickly overwhelms the A/C. And even then, common courtesy cuts both ways — why on earth would an FA not ask the passenger before just lurching into his space and taking control of the shade? That IS aggressive.

    Airlines are failing to get FAs to do far more essential things like 1) ensuring that disabled pax get the seats with moveable armrests near the front of the main cabin, or 2) trying to reseat families with small children in adjacent seats. But apparently it’s worth alienating a Platinum customer over a window shade issue. Why?

  • Pat

    There are times to pursue issues and times to let issues go and move on. This is a time to let it go and move on. The supervisor handled the issue on the flight and that should be the end of it.

  • Melinda

    If you want to control the window shade, you sit in the window seat. I struggle with this all of the time. I hate having the window shade open as sometimes the light is blinding, but I usually prefer the comfort and convenience of an aisle seat. So if it’s a daytime flight, I sit in the window so I can know it will be closed. If it’s overnight, I’m happy with my aisle.

  • pauletteb

    Flying back from Australia, the cabin crew said that ALL window shades had to be down, so down they went. No one acted as though he/she was exempt. The light from “his” window could have disturbed anyone around him. Regarding the notion that the complaining passenger should have discussed the situation with him personally: If I were bothered by something another passenger was doing, I would also enlist the FA rather than get involved with a potentially belligerent response. The FAs have the authority; let them handle it. This guy comes across to me as a bit too “privileged.”

  • IGoEverywhere

    It is time to hold an employee and an airline responsible for their actions. TAKE THEM OUT!

  • Carchar

    I had just the opposite experience. On a flight to Israel on Continental Airlines, some years ago, the person directly in back of me at a window seat in economy had his shade up as day was dawning. Someone in the row behind him asked the FA to close the shade. The FA was very polite but refused, saying that it was up to the person at the window to close it, but that person was sleeping and he would not wake him. After listening to the whispered conversation back and forth, I just turned around and closed the shade. Problem solved. But, again, it was when flying was more civilized.

  • Carchar

    I tend to get headaches from anything constricting my head, so I won’t wear an eye shade. But, in my case, I have no problem with light levels at any time in the cabin.

  • LonnieC

    If at all possible I’d try to find the OP’s seatmate to clarify the “he said/she said” part of this matter. If he’s correct, AA owes him a lot. Of course, AA will likely refuse to help him find out the seatmate’s identity (and may not be able to legally, I don’t know). If ever there was a need for a witness….

  • Mark

    I can sympathize with the doctor, as I also wish I could have the shade open as we fly over some of the most fascinating parts of the world. It boggles my mind on a flight to Asia, that more nobody wants to look at Alaskan glaciers below, and people prefer to watch movies on 8 inch screens or struggle to sleep. But, that’s what people want, so I satisfy myself with a quick sneak peek and maybe take a picture. Oh well. But Doctor, you are an airline passenger and that flight attendant is the authority, and nobody has the time for prolonged debates. Surely you can understand situations where “because I said so” has to rule the day, whether it’s fair or not. It happens in your office, and on the plane, and this whole story reminds me most of all that it happens in fifth grade.

  • Mark it is odd to me that you would assume the Doctor was in the wrong and that the Flight attendant was in the right given the volumes of complaints all over the internet about poor customer service by American Airline team members including flight attendants.

    There is ample evidence to suggest the there is a culture problem with American and zero evidence that the customer was a problem. He made a reasonable request, to open his window shade and the flight attendant refused it without reason. If I have a window next to my seat and it has the option of being open or closed, it is reasonable to assume I can take my pick unless there is to a request to do it differently and and explanation.

    Flying is something he paid for, we pay for. It is not a jail or a prison where the guards can run rampant over the inmates. These are paying passengers. He did zero to put anyone in danger period.

  • AAGK

    Go with your gut. This one is so hard though. Without seeing the incident, it is impossible to know. She was probably unnecessarily nasty, but maybe the airline censured her in some way. The Dr got to his destination, and I got the impression he was a bit argumentative as well by getting out of his seat to confront/discuss the incident further. He could have easily opted out and let her close the shade and made due, rather than escalating it further. As an elite, he should know what she says goes, even if she is a raving lunatic. The time to discuss this is with a complaint, ON THE GROUND. The airline replied, as a frequent flier and a doctor, he should have more patience and tolerance and let it go.

  • ctporter

    Sometimes the angle of the sun through the window can create a blinding “spotlight” effect on passengers seated elsewhere in the plane which makes it impossible to read, watch a movie, work, etc. and it is beyond rude to keep a shade up if that is happening to the other passenger. That other passenger may well be one or two rows behind and in the middle seats. I am not sure if the OP would have agreed to have the window shade down even if he was blinding another passenger because he asked if passengers not in his row could control his window shade. Sure sounds like it was all about him in this case.

  • jmtabb

    And this is exactly why the new generation of planes have the shades electronically controlled by the flight deck (Boeing’s 787).

    Just wait, I’m guessing that they’ll figure out a way to electronically control the reclining seats from the flight deck in a future generation of airplanes so any “disputes” get taken care of behind bulletproof cockpit doors.

  • KanExplore

    It looks to me as though both are in the wrong here. In the case of the flight attendant, it’s pretty clear she was discourteous. “Excuse me, sir, but…” is much better than just reaching in rudely and shutting the shade. She also appears to have escalated the conversation/confrontation unnecessarily.

    The OP, though, has to respect the fact that his needs for light don’t outweigh others’ needs for dark. If the needs are in conflict, then the standard procedure should apply, and most of the time that’s “shades down” in this situation. If he finds it hard to see patients the day after flying, then he simply shouldn’t schedule any. Take a day off to readjust.

  • LostInMidwest

    Oh, Sir, but this is where you are very wrong. Captain of the vessel is the uttermost authority and has imperial/dictatorship powers. And so are her/his responsibilities as well. It wasn’t long ago that captain of the ship was expected to go down with it. That was before Costa Concordia, though …

    It is their vessel, their responsibility and you are expected to do as they say. AFTER you deplane, you can sue whomever you want and do whatever you want, but on the vessel, pretty please, do what they tell you to do. If you don’t like it, there are always high-speed trains or Autobahns. Oh, wait!

  • HeyYouKidsGetOffMyLawn

    Regardless of the other passenger’s requests, under no circumstances should the flight attendant EVER have talked to him like that.

  • Mark

    I’m not saying the doctor is “wrong” except that he needs to follow the FA’s directions. The time to argue is after the plane lands. It doesn’t seem right in a world where we constantly debate what’s right and wrong, fair, just, and legal, but in the plane the rule is “because I said so.”

  • JenniferFinger

    There was no announcement that all shades needed to be down or that such a policy was in effect. The doctor got his row mate’s agreement to leave the window shade up. The flight attendant merely came up, and without asking any questions or saying anything at all, leaned in and slammed the shade down.

  • sofar

    Yes, the flight attendant was out of line. But, had she been polite, I would have sided with her.

    Even if there wasn’t an announcement to close the shades, he was doing something against the current of what others were doing in a small shared space — something that affects passengers rows ahead. At that point, you go with the flow. If some other seats’ shades were open and LW opened his, that would have been fine. But obviously, all the other windows were closed. I’d put it in the same category as watching an iPad movie without headphones or spraying aromatherapy stuff around. If he wanted to stay awake, he could have used his above-the-seat light (which casts a contained beam on the user only). Not as good as natural light, but doesn’t prevent people from sleeping if they want to.

    I once opened my window on a train in Germany and was huffily asked by an attendant to close it. Glancing around, I noticed all windows in our car were closed, so I closed mine, too. It was stuffy in the train, but I followed the unofficial concensus-in-a-small-shared-space rule.

  • JenniferFinger

    Nothing in the letter says that keeping the window open was “against the current of what others were doing in a small shared space.” There is nothing in the letter that says whether anyone else’s shade was up or down.

    And each person in an window seat has the right to control that shade-not the persons in the rows around them. Even if the person behind the doctor had a problem with it, s/he had no right to expect everyone else on the plane to lower their shades for them.

  • just me

    It is the light from the window that intrudes everywhere!!!! That is what the light does.

  • just me

    The long standing protocol is to ask the stewardess to address the problem.

  • Kirk Woodyard

    I was recently treated as guilty until proven innocent by TSA, asked inappropriate questions, spoken to as the villain, and given the royal run-around. People who have contact with the public and for any reason abuse their position of authority need to find more suitable employment. Some who have this authority thoroughly enjoy the de-humanizing, belittling use of the power. This FA needs to answer to the press and the public for her actions, and if found abusive, be culled from the herd. The worst part is the infuriating feeling of helplessness against an overwhelming authority, so out of the ordinary way that people typically interact with each other in a healthy business or personal setting. Yet these people survive to abuse again.

  • just me

    I would not want you on any trial by jury panel.

  • 42NYC

    With all due respect to Dr. Levine there are two sides to every story so we’ll never know if this was just an FA on a power trip or if the doctor did indeed get ‘loud and threatening.’

    That said, while it’s technically his window to control its polite on long haul flights to keep the windows lowered. He may want to get back to CST but others may need to rest and they want to stay on UK time, or are connecting to another international destination from Dallas. Who knows?

    If i was the airline I would offer an apology and perhaps a goodwill gesture of miles or credit as this is a passenger they should wish to maintain but I do not think this is something you should be advocating for.

  • disqus_r0dMb9Jbcd

    Doctors are in a profession that can go 24-48 hours without sleep consistently. Well the ones doing call and surgery. This is the one profession that is able to skip a nights sleep and work very well in most cases. So using the MD title is working against him IMHO.

  • MarieTD

    The story claims that he just wants an apology.

  • Donna

    Two points:
    1) If the passengers in business class were polled for a transatantic flight, I feel confident most would prefer that all window shades be lowered. It facilitates watching movies and the ability to nap. I personally find it distracting and annoying when all the shades are not lowered. So whose preference takes priority?
    2) As an Executive Platinum flyer with American, I find Levine’s account of the flight attendant’s rude and aggressive behavior very believable. I also believe that the flight attendant would be willing to lie about the encounter and cast Levine as the aggressor. As passengers, we have few rights in these types of encounters with airline personnel or TSA agents.

  • LostInMidwest

    Me neither :)

  • LostInMidwest

    “And each person in an window seat has the right to control that shade …”

    Right? Really, now – right, no less?

    I strongly believe words are currency, the more there is of it, the less it is worth. Also, the more often a word it is misused, it diminishes the meaning of the concept it was trying to convey. In this case : right.

    Right is a heavy, extremely heavy concept and I wouldn’t dare to call it into a trivial children-in-a-sandbox dispute. Seemingly, as somebody else mentioned in this thread, we not only deserved the right to be treated as a cattle by the airlines, but also to be treated as children that we are by the crew – 787 will have electrically adjustable chromatic windows. Controls in the cockpit only. Now I know why …

  • sofar

    The fact that someone complained seems to indicate that his open shade was noticeible, which can occur only in an otherwise darkened cabin. There’s another issue, too — depending on the direction the plane is flying, an open window can leave the sun’s beam pointing laser-like toward you at eye level across the aisle. The glare can also affect others’ ability to see their video screens. This might have been what happened.

    If I’m “speculating,” then we both are. But someone else was being affected by his decision.

    We’ll never agree except for on one point: the flight attendant seems to have handled it poorly. You have the “right” to open your window shade (if the staff hasn’t officially announced that all shades must be closed), but I’d think you’d be a jerk to keep it that way if I told you I couldn’t see my screen or the sun was angled directly into my eyes. I would hope we’d be able to reach a compromise (like the one I reached with the gentleman sitting behind me recently — he had a knee injury and asked that I not recline my seat).

  • just me

    Ditto for that

  • just me

    What do you mean? That you would not like to be on your own jury or me to be on your jury? A little bitch slapping sometimes is invigorating. But maybe I should be clearer. Didn’t your write: “In this he-says-she-says I actually believe flight attendant more.”
    This is a prejudice at its worse.
    Something tells me that the passenger has nothing to gain and nothing to loose, but the flight attendant has every incentive under the sun to lie for her own interest in keeping the job. And the proof is in the letter from AA – that letter is the approval and confirmation for all flight attendants to threaten and terrorize everyone into ordnung no matter how ill.

  • LostInMidwest

    I meant that I would not like to sit on a jury and I would certainly not like to have myself as a jury member if I were on trial.

    You have a prejudice towards someone who has to keep the job, I have prejudice towards someone who starts with “Being that I’m special, I did …” and ends with “… but you wouldn’t let me! I want apology!” . Friends as before.

  • just me

    I do not have any prejudice ever. Keep the job is a powerful lie at all cost incentive. To emphasis – didn’t you notice how every shooting by police office is explained by “my perception was…” and “I was afraid for my life”. Yet we are finding new video telling a different story and never anything resembling a weapon in the area.
    Hot air and I am special — sure we all are full of both — we just do not show it.
    Apology – sure when is the last time you heard real apology from American Airlines – it is so darn rare and precious – no wonder that he wants one too.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Great minds think alike. I don’t see what the “problem” is at this point. It’s not like other issues where an airline cancels a flight due to some misunderstanding and a passenger is stranded in the middle of nowhere. In this case, an FA was aggressive and perhaps abused her authority and the airline is reserving their rights to defend over-authoritarian FA’s but… aside from the confrontation no harm no foul. It was fixed in the air and the passenger got to their destination.

    Demands of “gestures of goodwill” sounds like a shakedown to me. If the airline doesn’t want to make such a gesture, that’s their perogative. It’s not a right. The high profile passenger should consider taking their business elsewhere. Delta is one of the major carriers with a better service record. In addition, consider flying on British Airways (which is a member of Oneworld so the FF programs are compatible.) Another option: Let it go.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    As Rebecca points out, that’s the best he’s going to get.

    The key is that he did get a response and apparently an investigation. The airline will be watching her because if she generates another confrontation and even passenger ejection, that could set them up for liability.

  • Mark

    AA has a specific policy against photographing employees or other pictures inside the aircraft, except for personal family or “selfie” type pictures. It’s in the magazine, every issue.

  • Pat

    Considering the number of votes compared to the usual number, it would appear that someone stuffed the ballot with yes votes.

  • judyserienagy

    He should status match with another airline. He’ll never feel positive about taking an American flight again. The FA was obviously having a REALLY bad day, and of course she would deny her behaviour. American might issue an “apology” but really, if you have to ask for it, who wants it?

    As for the issue of the window shade, eye masks are given out to people riding in the front of the plane so that everyone can be comfortable, including those who are awake. No passenger should expect another to sit in the dark if s/he wants to read or work. Some passengers cannot sleep on an airplane ever, trust me, we would sleep if we could.

  • JenniferFinger

    The fact that one person complained doesn’t give that one person the right to determine for everyone else on the plane whether or not window shades should be up or down.

  • JenniferFinger

    Sorry, but no passenger has the right-yes, right-to decide for the whole plane whether any window in any other row should have the shade up or down.

  • Kathi C

    I read this story when you first posted it. I did not comment then because the immediate reaction that came to me was to be pissed off! And yep read it again and I’m still wondering why this “jerk” felt it was his right to be so inconsiderate as to leave his blind UP with a plane load of trying to sleep passengers.
    Frankly I don’t buy his whole story and if I was that FA I would be incredulous when faced with an inconsiderate, self important passenger.
    So (Grant R) if this post is inconsiderate so be it. I waited and thought about it and this is the calmed down version.
    This guy would have heard from me directly had I been a passenger in that cabin. His actions were inconsiderate and that’s the polite version

  • BMG4ME

    On every international flight I’ve been on in recent years, they have asked passengers to leave the windows closed. It’s common courtesy because opening them disturbs several people around them, because it’s known that sleeping in natural light is not optimal. If the flight attendant were rude, that’s not right either, however someone needs education on thinking of other people around them.

  • Pat

    People sometimes leave out important details when trying to get their way. Here is what I think probably happened. An announcement was made to close the shades. The doctor asked the person next to him if he could keep the shade up and agreed. Someone else nearby complained and the FA asked for the doctor to comply with the request to put the shade down. When he started giving the reason he wanted it up, the confrontation built up because he did not comply with what he was told.

    Also the fact that the supervisor addressed the issue on the plane and he continues to press the issue asking for it to be advocated, does not put his story in a good light in my opinion.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Geez… what did I do? :-)

  • Kathi C

    Previously scolded my snarky fingers :)

  • Grant Ritchie

    Don’t mess with her, folks. She’s small, but she’s mean. :-)

  • Kathi C


  • JenniferFinger

    The FA did NOT “ask” the doctor to comply-she just reached over and slammed down the shade. And just because one person complained does not give that one person the right to get their way at another’s expense, as the doctor pointed out.

  • Pat

    We do not know exactly what happened as I am not buying what the doctor’s version of what happened as completely accurate. I think details were left out of his version to make him look like the victim. Also I was saying what I thought what probably happened (filling in some details I thought were missing), which included an announcement for everyone to close the shades. I cannot imagine all of the shades being down but the one next to the doctor without an announcement. So in my opinion, it was not just about one person’s way but that he did not comply with what everyone on the plane was told to do.

  • JenniferFinger

    I agree that there might have been an announcement, but without some evidence of that, I am not going to automatically assume that the doctor is lying to make himself look like a victim. He may really have been one. I’d like some more information on that myself to find out whether or not there was an announcement. I don’t automatically “not buy” people’s stories just because they appear to be victims-nor do I assume that the FA is always right just because s/he is a crew member.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Bottom line, it’s the airline’s call. If they say, shades down, then shades go down. If they don’t care, then they don’t care.

  • BubbaJoe123

    We have one side of the story. As noted above, this is a he-said/she-said.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Simpler solution than having all the sleepers wear eyeshades is to close all the windows, and have those who want light turn on their reading lights.

  • sofar

    OK fine. Next time you’re on a plane with your window shade open and the guy across the aisle says, “Excuse me, the sun is situated so that it’s beaming directly in my eyes. I have some work I need to get done before I land. Would you mind shutting it?”, you go right ahead and say, “You don’t get to tell ME to close MY shade. One person doesn’t get to determine for everyone else whether or not window shades should be up or down.”

  • BubbaJoe123

    It does, if the airline staff decides it does.

  • Pat

    The fact that the FA assignment was changed in flight indicates the FA did not handle it in a professional way and was addressed in flight. Also that fact that light from the window was an issue is enough for me to indicate an announcement was made. Without an announcement, there would have been a lot of shades still up.

  • Lee

    It’s a bit of a “he said, she said” situation; without any other persons confirming one version of events vs. another, I’m not sure I’m inclined to believe either. I don’t know the doctor or the FA so have no way of knowing which of the two is being more truthful.

    I will admit to be being a bit baffled over such a brouhaha over a window shade. It is one of the many discomforts we all face when flying – not having a perfect environment regardless of the price we pay. I also find him using his status (or whomever is highlighting his status) as being more worthy of certain service a bit tacky as well.

    As a passing flying economy, should I be expected to accept bad behavior on the part of an FA in a similar situation (assuming it was the FA who was rude) just because I am a lowly, low-cost flier? I imagine I am but his so-called status really doesn’t impact my choice to not take on his case.

    It seems that there was a substantive response sent to him and am not sure what else he wants or is expecting them to do other than to simply blindly accept his account of the encounter.

  • PhilDernerJr

    The response letter was fine. He’s being greedy, and I imagine he isn’t being fully honest in how calm he was. These cases are usually not to one-sided.

  • Wanderluster

    As a FA who only flies international (not for AA) I would NEVER, EVER reach over an awake passenger and close his window shade without permission. That in itself is rude and IMO gives credence to Dr. Levine’s story, if true. Also, I am not aware of any airline with a policy that window shades are REQUIRED to be lowered during nighttime flights. It is requested, for obvious reasons, but please someone who works for AA tell us if it is written policy. It isn’t at my airline. If a passenger complained to me that another’s open window was bothering them, I would tell the passenger with the window shade up there had been a complaint and ask if they would mind lowering it. If they declined, I would apologize to the complainer and remind them they have an eyeshade in their amenity kit. To me it seems this situation could have been handled much better by the FA involved, if Dr. Levine’s account is accurate.

  • flutiefan

    and that’s a big “if”.

  • sofar

    Like I already said, this is one of those things that needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis when you share space with others. And it’s not just about sleep. Let’s say I’m trying to get work done/watch my video screen, but the sun shining through your window is beaming right in my eyes (this has actually happened to me, it hurts, and I can’t do anything about it except sit there with my eyes squeezed shut). So I ask you to close your window (at least for a bit) do you say, “NO! My window! I control the shade!” ?

    As I said, I wish the person complaining had taken it up with the LW directly. And I wish the flight attendant had handled it better. Airlines need to come up with a policy and stick to it. Singapore Air’s policy (shades down after dinner, shades up after breakfast) is a good policy on long-haul flights.

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