Can this trip be saved? Angry birds – and angry passengers

This is a picture of two flight attendants on American Airlines flight 590 from San Diego to Chicago on Mar 20th. They’re playing Angry Birds on an iPad in the galley.

I don’t have a problem with that. But Calvin Michael does.

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He couldn’t find two seats together in economy class before his departure, but at the airport, American offered two “upgraded” economy class seats in row 7, 8 or 9 for $39 each. He decided it was worth it, and ended up with seats 8B and 8C.

That’s when the trouble started.

As the plane began to finish passenger loading we noticed that a couple in row 7 had two young children that were highly energetic and were lap-based, versus having their own seats.

After the first beverage service moved on from our section of the plane, the highly-energized children became a challenge to avoid.

So Michael had just paid an extra $78 for the wrong seats.

I had spied that our original seats appeared open when making a trip to the lavatory. Upon returning to row 8 with my wife, we discussed going back to these seats to avoid further contact with the children in row 7.

Michael pressed the flight attendant call button to ask a crewmember for permission to move. No one responded.

I went back to where the flight attendants were just aft of the coach lavatory.

I found both flight attendants engrossed in a video game behind a partial privacy curtain. I said “hello” in a normal voice, I cleared my throat, knocked on a lavatory door; I could not gain the two flight attendants’ attention.

I decided to take a cell phone picture, then two, then a third with flash. Again, they were only attentive to the hand-held video game.

I went back to my seat disgusted and survived the remaining hour or so of flight.

By the way, my son, who is an expert on these matters, tells me the attendants were playing Angry Birds. (Angry Birds, angry passengers. Ironic.)

Michael sent American an email detailing the seating arrangement problem and the flight attendants’ behavior and asking for a refund of his upgrade fee. American replied with a form letter. Here’s an excerpt:

Our employees strive to provide all of our customers with a safe and pleasant flying experience, and we try to ensure you are not subjected to uncomfortable situations by other passengers.

However, as in any public gathering, there may be occasions when a conflict arises between people or when one individual’s actions bother another.

Since our crew members may not be witness to all the behaviors or actions of a particular passenger, there may be a limit to what they can do to improve behavior that is perceived as a nuisance.

In the face of any serious disturbance, our crews are trained to diffuse potentially volatile situations so as to ensure the safety and well-being of all our customers and crew members.

Maybe someone at the corporate office is too buy playing Angry Birds to bother reading email from their customers. Michael’s complaint was as much about the non-responsive flight attendants as it was about the rowdy kids.

Michael could have downgraded himself and his wife without permission from American. However, it’s true that the airline can’t really control who you’re seated next to — which is to say, it doesn’t usually send an employee over to tell the unruly kids to shut up. Confrontations of that nature can have disastrous results.

I’m not sure if Michael deserves a refund because of his unruly seatmates. But I think he could make an argument for getting some kind of compensation for being completely ignored by the flight attendants.

I know how easy it is to get engrossed in a video game. I have two boys who are well on their way to becoming professional video game players. (I’m kidding; I hope they aren’t.) But the attendants on flight 590 were on duty, and they had an obligation to at least respond to Michael’s question.

Had they simply acknowledged his problem and allowed him to return to his original seat, I don’t think this would be an issue.

Is he entitled to $78? I don’t know. But he should get more than an empty apology.

77 thoughts on “Can this trip be saved? Angry birds – and angry passengers

  1. Yes, you should try to mediate this as the legacy airlines need to be called to account for their surly and lazy employees.  I agree with moving the conversation away from the unruly kids to the lack of response to the call button, etc.  The picture is great ammo.  It’s totally stupid of AA not to address that aspect in their form letter reply.  It even says, “our crews are trained to diffuse potentially volatile situations.”  How does sitting in the galley, playing video games and ignoring requests for assistance, help diffuse this??

    1. I agree with Jeremy, this is about having professionals who are attentive to their work environment and responsibilities while they are on duty.  80% of my flights with AA are international, usually up front, and even in the so-called “premium” cabin I have noticed a significant decrease in the accessability of the cabin crew. When I get up to ask for something from the galley I usually find the FAs talking, reading, or engaged in some other activity that is not directly related to the business of air safety or passenger care.  What gets me is that it tends to be ALL of them at the same time – it wouldn’t be so bad if one or two of them remained attentive to the pax.

      As someone with many friends who are crew, I used to be very generous with the “FAs are here to save your butt, not kiss it” philosophy, but then I realized that all of the things that my friends would use to justify their claims that being a FA was difficult (low pay, long hours, changing schedules, air rage) are not unique to them: my earnings are low, I frequently work 10-12 hours per day, my work week is 5-6 days per week, my customers are not always the easiest to deal with (and I don’t get to say goodbye to them after two or 12 hours), and all games and access to facebook, YouTube and other social sites is blocked on my network. I can’t pull a curtain across my cubicle and be “unavailable” while I’m being paid to do a job, and I certainly can’t read a book or have hour-long conversations with my coworkers in the office.  I have begun to ask myself why they get to “play hookey” when they are working and I don’t. 

      Flight attendants are loosing the support of formerly supportive passengers – I think this is an indication that things are going wrong, and this is the focus I fell should be taken if you take on this case.

  2. If they were lap children, they were under two. How unruly could they be? What did they expect staff to do about a squirmy baby? And, what is it their business what the cabin crew does? And why was it so dang important that they sit together in the first place? For $78, they got extra legroom and sat together as they wanted. Nobody suggested that the seats would be in a particularly quiet section of the plane, nor that for $78 they were entitled to staff at their beck and call. I don’t see that these people have a complaint about anything. Sorry if the human race includes babies. Sorry that if after providing the required services, that staff entertained themselves. By the way, what is really rude is to take embarrassing pictures of other people and post them on the Internet. You could mediate this by demanding that these complainers pay the babies and the staff for their rudeness. 

    1. The OP wanted permission to change his seat.  There was no response from the FAs.  He went to check and found them playing video games.  He did all he could to get their attention.  He was ignored.  This is what he is upset about.  It is that simple. 

    2. So, it’s OK for the FAs to be playing “Angry Birds”, when they’re supposed to be working?  These two FAs should thank their lucky stars.  If I tried what they did, I’d get canned.

    3. Gee, you are very easy to please.  It’s to bad that we have become accustomed to a lack of responsible service.  All the OP wanted was to be acknowledged by the flight attendants, and to perhaps be allowed to take the seats he and his partner were originally assigned and get a refund of the added price he paid (for which he expected to add a little more comfort).  He wasn’t blaming the attendants for the kids’ behavior, just for their carelessness and lack of professionalism and responsibility.

      Now, as for  the kids’ behavior….

    4. Oh my … children < 2 can be very disruptive (and I am both a mother and a grandmother). The children ended up not being the problem. The passenger found himself liking the location of his original seats better than the upgraded ones and wanted to move back. No big deal except the attandants were too busy "playing" to address their customers!

  3. First, I don’t think Mr. Michael should recieve anything back for the seats. He got what he paid the $78 for – two economy seats next to each other. The fact that he’s unhappy with the passengers in the vicinity is tough nuts.

    Second, I find it very hard to believe that he stood there and said “hello”, knocked, cleared his throat and took three cell phone pictures (one with a flash) and the flight attendants didn’t even turn around. Almost impossible. In fact, I’m calling outright shennanigans. I don’t think it happened, at least not the way he described it.

    I think you got snookered, Chris. Don’t mediate.

    1. “…I find it very hard to believe that he stood there and said “hello”, knocked, cleared his throat and took three cell phone pictures (one with a flash) and the flight attendants didn’t even turn around.”
      – – – – – – – – – — – – —
      It might be hard to believe but it is possible.  A few years ago, I was on a long-haul US Airways flight (3.5 hours).  I was walking to the lavatory and the Flight Attendant (FA) saw me coming.  She pulled the curtain and started to chant “I am on break”.  After I was done in the lavatory and she was still chanting, I just said “I don’t need anything from the galley…I just had to use the lavatory…you can stop your chanting”.

      Last fall, I was on an United international flight (10 hours) in business class.  The BC FAs disappeared after the meal (about 2 hours into the flight).  I went to the BC galley to get a soft drink.  There was a FA in the galley but she said that was a Economy FA who was watching the galley as the BC FAs were on break and she couldn’t get me a drink.  The BC FAs appeared about an hour before landing.

      Four years ago, I was on an US Airways flight from PDX to PHX.  I was sitting in FC and I fell asleep before take off.  I woke up 15 minutes after the drinks and snacks were served in the FC cabin.  I push the call button and when the FC FA arrived, she said “you told me that you didn’t want anything to eat or drink when I was serving…stop playing games with me…etc”.  I was shocked with her response and the two passengers (complete strangers) sitting in the FC seats to the right and left of me spoke up and told the FC FA that I was sleeping before the take-off until a few minutes ago.  She looked at them and said “you better shut up or I will report the three of you.”  

      I have not encountered a bad FA on international based airlines (i.e. Asiana, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, etc.) yet; however, it is a different story with FAs on US-based airlines.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some good FAs on US-based airlines but the several that shouldn’t be working as FAs.    

      1. Absolutely it’s possible but in each of your examples, the FA responded, even if it was in an undesirable fashion. The fact that the OP wants us to believe that the flight attendants in question didn’t even look up once, even after several auditory and visual cues, is what makes this story unbelievable to me. At the very least they would have turned to make sure it wasn’t the pilot or a supervisor checking upon them.  

        1.  The pilots cannot – under FAA regulations leave the cockpit, without a FA coming up front, to be on the flight deck, but it is reasonable to assume that an American Airlines employee – a supervisor could have been on the flight.

    2. i 100% agree with you Absherlock. something smells fishy about this whole story.

      and NO WAY should he get his $78 refunded simply because he decided he didn’t like those seats anymore.  if he’d stayed with his regular assignment, and there had been “unruly” children there, he probably would still be asking for compensation. it’s an airline seat. it’s luck of the draw who you’re placed around!

  4. Another case where I argue for mediation not on the basis of the refund, but rather on the basis of the set of actions (or more appropriately, inactions) by the airline.  

    1. This is my stance as well. AA needed to respond with something other than a form letter.

      And, Tom, the flight attendants were ON THE JOB; there are not there to play video games.

  5. What if someone were having a medical emergency and nobody responded?

    There are two sides to every story. I’d like to hear what AAs is.

  6. He paid $78 and received the upgraded seat. What is there to mediate? If he was really concerned he would have made it a point to get the flight attendant’s attention rather than try for the latest ‘gotcha’ photo of the week.

  7. This is petty and not worth your time mediating. While I do think it was awful for the FAs to completely ignore him, dealing with unruly kids happens on planes. When you’re stuck in a small flying tube, there’s no real place to escape. He paid extra to sit with his wife and have more leg room. He got that. End of story. The minimum the airline should do is send an apology, but that shouldn’t really need a mediator and it’s a waste of your time, which could be used by someone really wronged. This just isn’t worth the $78. I understand that it’s the principle of the thing, but sheesh!

  8. I don’t think he deserves his money back for the seats, he got the seats.  The kids were just bad luck.  But I do think he deserves more of an appology, the guy does have pictures as proof that the FA’s were not attentive to the flight.

    @Tom, I once watched a man with a “lap” child that was disturbing.  
    He and the child had a pair of seats together by a window.  The child was probably closer to 2, but she NEVER sat down the whole hour and a half flight.  She instead climbed all over her father, even during take off.  Yes, a lap child could be pretty unruley.  OMG, I could only imagine what my 21 month old nephew would be like on a flight!  That’s the material of nightmares!

  9. I say no because as others have pointed out, he got what he paid for, 2 seats together.  The fact that there were kids there is a moot point, the kids could have been seated ANYWHERE.  If they were bothering him so much, kicking his seat, pulling on his seat, etc, perhaps he could have asked the parents kindly to try to get the kids to stop. 

    Plus while I can understand wanting to make your experience sound as awful as possible when you go to extremes YOU end up sounding like the idiot.  ”
    I went back to my seat disgusted and survived the remaining hour or so of flight.”  Survived?  Really?  The plane didn’t crash, there wasn’t a terrorist attack, you didn’t have a heart attack, there were CHILDREN.   

  10. Take this one step further. If these unruly kids were sitting in front of him in the originally seats he had and he were sitting behind them in his original seats would he expect his money back for the paid tickets that he purchased? 

  11. I would like to know if the two lap children where sitting together which your information implies or on opposite sides of row seven.

    If together than oxygen masks would not be available in an emergency. 

  12.  I fly a lot and book my AISLE seat as soon as I know I am going on a trip.  Often, very often (when I am traveling alone) the flight attendant asks me to “change seats” with “so and so” because they are “on their honeymoon,” “do not want to be separated,”  Etc.  You get the picture.  I decline ALWAYS saying I booked this seat and it is mine.  Honeymooners have the rest of their lives to sit together and the flight is probably only a couple of hours long.

    1. I rarely give up my seat as well and I don’t really understand why people HAVE to sit together.  You’re going on vacation, you’re going to be together then 24/7.  I’d think having some downtime would be welcome.

      I will give up my seat if it’s parents with younger kids.

    2. I was traveling with my 18 month old.  He had a purchased seat.  I had a purchased seat.  Last minute trip and they could not seat us together.  I went up to a person sitting on the aisle next to my middle and asked him to swap to a window seat on the other side of the aisle where my son would be.  I got the No Way attitude.  Gee – I had a choice – I could sit there and put my 18 month old in his carrier in his seat – or put him in the middle seat.  Guess which one I chose.  Mr. No Way wanted to switch with me the moment he saw I was buckling the car seat next to HIM.  Oh well, there is more than one way to deal with people  – I always try polite first. . . .

    3. You are right not giving your AISLE seat unless for an Upgrade to Business or First Class. Believe me, I once did it and regretted it, and never again. Now, I agree only if exchange for an upgrade, on the spot or the next trip. Airlines now ask for a fee on some preferred seats,  so, they have compensate for your favorite seat too, it cost them nothing, why should we accommodate them.

      1. It’s not for the airline that you are being asked to move seats.  It is for a fellow human being.  Why should you get an upgrade from an airline to help out a fellow traveler.  It is this type of entitled attitude that is disgusting.

        I’m not saying you should always switch seats under any circumstances….that is at one’s discretion.  But your post is ridiculously selfish.

  13.  Years ago I was on a flight and a man took off his jacket and asked the Flight Attendant to hang it up.  She told him “no.”  So, he tried to stuff it
    in the overhead.  She came by and took it out and THREW IT IN HIS FACE.
    I thought they were “friends” and “just joking.”  Then I found out it was not true.  On my way off the plane I said to him:  “I would never acccept ANYONE throwing a jacket in my face!”  WIMP.

    1.  I think its unfair to call this individual a wimp. What is he to do? If a flight attendant was that confrontational, why escalate the situation? He could have found himself arrested or thrown off the plane.

      1.  Dear Chris, I never called him a wimp aloud.  I just told him I personally would never let ANYONE throw anything in my face.  I am a 5’3″ blonde female, 115 pounds. I must stick up for myself in all situations — especially when I am always PULLED OVER for special search — I wear 2 watches, sometimes my dresses look like trench coats and I have been really GROPED even before these new rules!!!!  I wear breast prostheses and if the gal hadn’t quit squeezing them I would have taken them out for her to examine.  My stories would fill a book.  My husband always goes ahead of me because he knows I will get the 3rd degree!

        1. In life, sometimes one has to take the high road and avoid further confrontation to diffuse a situation. Knowing when to walk away or let it go is NOT being a wimp, its being smart.

          The gentleman in your example should have reported the incident to a supervisor and/or written a letter to customer service. If the flight attendant in question has repeated complaints, then they will be put on probation and or terminated. Thats how the system works. After that, you let it go, its out of your hands.

        2. um, you did call him a wimp. when you typed WIMP.  maybe not to his face, but you did refer to him as a wimp.

          1. Dear Flutefan:   a weak, ineffectual, timid person.  Definition of wimp.
            Well, I spoke to him as I left the plane and told him I would never let
            anyone throw anything in my face.  This incident happened more than 15 years ago.   To whom should I apologize for my comment?  Let’s move on.  Bigger things going on in the world, eh?  I apologize to you if my word was “offensive.”   OK?

          2. I simply thought the word in my head.  Am I on trial for the “thought 
            police?”  EGADS.  I’d be in jail now for some of my thoughts!  

  14.  If they didn’t respond to a attendant call button, then AA and its 2 employees are wrong. If he didn’t try to call them that way, then he is wrong !
    Since when are banging on a lavatory door, clearing your throat and saying a miserable hello in the noisy environment of an airplane a way to engage people ?And since he paid for an upgrade to 2 better seats, together, which he got, what exactly does he expect from the airline ?

  15. I think that the OP was asking for the refund as compensation for being totally ignored by the FA’s.

    I don’t know the union rules for FA’s – but it would seem to me that on a flight from San Diego to Chicago (which is what, 4 hours?) that they would not get a break during that time.  Even if they did, I would find it very hard to believe that they would both be permitted to take it at the same time and not stagger the breaks.   Even if the OP only got one picture of this and not the three that he says it still proves that they were playing games when they – or at least one of them – should probably have been working. 

    I actually find it disturbing that the FA’s would be playing a video game during the flight – even if it was on a legitimate break.   And yes, I totally believe that they could be sucked int that game to the point of not hearing someone trying to get their attention – as I’ve seen that same result from family and friends while playing those games. 

  16. Chris, I like the phrasing of the question since it allowed me to press the yes button. I don’t think that Michael should receive a refund, since the seats were usable and they were what he paid for. I do think, however, that AA is not going to pay any attention to his very legitimate complaint that the attendants were ignoring their responsibilities on the flight — therefore, I think you should contact the airline regarding that matter. 

  17.  I think you should mediate this, but all that should happen is an apology from the airline and assurance that the employees in question have had the matter discussed.  Being ignored is not reason for a discount or rebate, and the form letter that Michael received in response is on par with the level of service he had on the plane.

    But nothing he described was worthy of some sort of compensation.

  18. I voted to mediate, just because I have gotten attitude from AA flight attendants over the call button. While on a flight after a particularly tough week, I started to doze off. I woke up again just as the FAs had passed my row and were about 6-7 behind me. Being in a middle seat, I did not wish to bother my seatmate and get up, so I rang the call button.

    BIG MISTAKE! I was told in no uncertain terms that the call button was for emergencies only and should not have rung it for a drink. I politely apologized and then asked if they then knew why the call button had a picture of someone holding a drink on a tray? 

    After a blank, angry stare and a few chuckles from those around me, I was asked “wadda you want?” and was quickly brought my drink.

    While I say this, I do realize that a flight attendants primary job is safety, and many in the profession have performed admirably in tough times.

    They probably would not have diffused the unruly child situation other than allow the OP to move, but they should have certainly been more attentive in this case from a safety perspective as well.

  19. AA should make a goodwill gesture. After all, the OP has brought an important point to their attention. What if he was ringing the call bell because there was a true emergency? The FAs would have been just as oblivious.

    FAs work hard and they deserve to have a few minutes to themselves from time to time. But they are there for our safety, and should be on alert when something goes wrong. And American proved to be just as oblivious in the way they answered his letter. I usually side with the crew, but not this time.

  20. The disruption from the kids has nothing to do with the upgraded seats so no refund should be given. (I’ve flown in first class with children and was frustrated by the noise of a child, but does not entitle me to a refund?) Instead, the airline should respond to the work ethic of their staff, who should not be allowed to play video games while on duty (they both couldn’t have been on break at the same time).

    This brings up the question again – should their be a family section of the plane for small children so others aren’t subjected to the children? I vote yes.

  21. Mediate, yes. Refund? Wellll….. Oh, by the way: a lap baby can be extremely noisy. I had that experience on a flight once. The child was screaming (not fussing, screaming) from the time he got on the plane until about 20 minutes after we got in the air. It was awful. He finally fell asleep. So yeah, lap babies can make a LOT of noise. 
    I don’t know what to think about the total non-response story. If it happened just as the OP said, then AA needs to hear about it and do some re-training for their FAs. Someone needs to remind them what they were hired to do.
    Like other posters, I’d love to hear AA’s side of the story on this one. Personally, I’ve never experienced rudeness from an FA, but I don’t fly that often, and when I do, I try to do for myself as much as possible. I know it happens, though.
    Here’s what I do, though. I try to make a point of smiling and speaking to the FAs as I get on the plane. “Good morning, hope you’re having a good day,” that kind of thing. They have crappy days just like I do, and I’ve found that a pleasant word and a smile can help brighten someone’s day. It takes five seconds and doesn’t cost a dime. Call it brown-nosing or whatever if you want, but if it works, it works.
    I am interested in hearing about the resolution of this case.

  22. I didn’t see in the story whether or not the OP first asked the parents to control their children before going to the FA for help.  If he did not, then he most definitely should have.  A polite request to the parents to calm them down could have saved the OP the headache he put himself through.  What are the parents going to say…. no?  Not like you’ll ever see them again once you get off the plane.

    As far as compensation goes, I say no to monetary compensation since it was used and the OP and wife got to sit together but AA should acknowledge the issue with something other than a form letter.  I hate unruly children as much as the next person and I do sympathize with the OP.

    1. I’ve tried the “polite request” route before through the years.  It doesn’t work anymore, whether you’re on a plane, in church, at a restaurant, at a store . . .  Parents tend to invoke the “they’re children and what do you expect?” line.  (What I *expect* really isn’t what they want to hear.)

      The last time I spoke to a parent on a plane, it was because she was encouraging her son to smash his pop can with the seat tray attached to my seat.  The rest of the flight, Seattle to Minneapolis, she encouraged him to kick my seat the rest of the way, throw things over the seat and to get nice and close to my head and play with his videogame at its loudest setting.

      I hate dumping parenting responsibilities on to a flight attendant by complaining to them, but I would have called for one in this case, too.

      1. …And I am sure these kind of parents, blame the US Education System fail instead of doing their part, they cry for human right when their children get punished for bad behavior at school…
        Of course lot of them don’t have a clue what are good manners, etiquette… they are quit to buy peace the wrong way instead of taking hard lines against their children.
        (When I was a child, not only my parents check on me, they ask the neighbors check my behavior and report to them).

  23. Let’s see… an airline had poor customer service that resulted in a normal flight for passengers. No one got hurt. There was no scalding coffee. In fact, there wasn’t even a problem, simply a request that went unheard. Not worth the time to mediate. 

  24. In my company, people can be fired by playing game at work.
    I think he should get a refund. Personally I wish there is a section for family with children. By traveling on Biz and 1st Class, I avoid the un-frequent children by default. Most of the children flying upfront usually behave correctly because their parents are quite severe too.

  25. I would not refund the upgrade.  Moving your seats was a risk, and no matter where you sit on a plane, you have a chance of finding the rude, the drunk, the loud and the smelly. He had no better chances with an upgrade than he did in coach.

    I think, however, someone AA needed to actually READ this guy’s letter and at least pretend they were going to discipline these attendants.  They ignored the whole thing and gave him what barely constituted lipservice.  Ugh. 

  26. I am shocked at the number of people saying this is not worth mediating.  Not only did the attendants ignore the passenger, but AA ignored what he wrote in his letter to them.  This is ridiculous customer service.  I think he is entitled to a refund of his money-absolutely!

    1. … because its NOT worth mediating. If the OP were serious about bringing attention to the inattentive flight attendants, the complaint letter would have focused on that fact. The OP is simply wanting a refund of the $78 “upgrade” and I get the impression that thats all that matters. 

      If he really were serious about the inattentive FAs, a more direct follow-up letter could be written, WITHOUT the assistance of an ombudsman!

      Something like this:

      “Dear Sir/Madam

      I was a passenger on flight 590 from SAN to ORD. During the flight, I required the assistance of a flight attendant. I rang the call bell and received no response. I went to the galley and tried to speak to a flight attendant, but both attendants were so busy playing a computer game, they repeatedly ignored my requests. In my opinion, this represents a potential safety hazard and I request that this issue be addressed. Please notify me of the outcome.”

      would be more useful…. 

      just my 2 cents

  27. For those who have said that he got the upgraded seats, so no issues.

    When you pay for a seat, upgraded or not, there is a service included. No? the fact that he did not receive the service he paid for in his ticket deserves some compensation. I would say that a refund of his upgrade is appropriate. If the FAs had merely placed them back in their original seats, then I would say hey, you never know. Hoever, since the FAs were completely non attentive, the OP deserves something. 

    1. Didn’t he receive the service though?  He got the seats together, he got a beverage service, he did not require medical attention or any other type of necessary attention from the flight attendants, he just wanted to change seats.   

  28. If the OP simply wants a refund of the $78, then there is nothing to mediate. The OP was given the seats as advertised. As to the being “ignored” by the flight attendants, thats a customer service breakdown, but it does not justify a refund.

    The issue I have is that the OP doesn’t really know what he is complaining about (other than wanting a refund of the $78). I think he has a more legitimate complaint with regards to flight attendants being so focused on a video game that they are oblivious to everything else, but the bulk of his complaints focuses on the $78 “upgrade” and the unruly kids. Hence, the “form” letter.

    The OP needs to write off the $78. If he still feels strongly about the FA’s inattentiveness, then he needs to write a follow-up letter, expressing concern that FAs on this flight were so focused on a video game, and perhaps AA will investigate further. But, thats for the OP to do, not for an ombudsman.

    On a different issue, yes, the FAs should have a right to take a break during the flight. But, the FA is also part of the crew, and if they are so distracted, how can they be effective in case of a developing emergency?

  29. My Lord, you are on a 3 1/2 hour flight – can’t you work the entire time you are being paid?  Is it really that big a deal to an FA to simply take care of their passengers for the entire period of time instead of gossiping and whining about their employer on the side of a curtain, playing video games or ‘taking a break?’  I have to work, gasp!, sometimes as long as 4 or 5 hours without a break.  Lions and tigers and bears, oh MY!! 

    Most of the time FA’s are not working.  They sit, read magazines, gab, await for service after take off, wait for the flight to end sitting at landing.  While they are there for the safety of the passengers most of them are about as customer services oriented as the SS was greeting the trains.   Harsh?  Yes.  True – yes.  Many of them really do not like their jobs and really don’t like people.  Especially those with the highest seniority numbers – or the battleaxes as I’ve started to call them.

    Many FA’s know that all they need to do it tell the captain that a passenger is ‘interfering with them,’ and it could be as simple as interfering with their break or what they perceive as being time they are NOT working, and the passenger suffers the consequences and the airline and union and the security apparatus supports them 100% – you are not innocent and they have to prove nothing other than the claim of a flight attendant. . . . and they use that threat all the time.  Nice people.  Not all of them – but enough of them.

  30. My sole issue is with the flight attendands response.  

    The fact is sometimes you can ask passangers to move around so people ae seated together as long as they arent both middle seats. 

  31. Poor guy. The Airline didn’t take any fault in what happened. It reminds me of one of my stays in Vegas. The security guards arrested my guest and held her for like an hour. Then came banging on my door at like 4am. (I guess she shouldn’t have ran through the casino.) I wrote a complaint and I thought I would receive an apology and they didn’t acknowledge my complaint at all. I mean she had a room key, and I claimed her as a guest and they still needed to ask questions at 4am. Travel industry(SMH)… Will anyone ever take the costumers side? SIGH…..

  32. He got his seats.  There were kids nearby, but ya know, that’s going to happen from time to time.  There’s no refund due of $78 because he got what he paid for. 

    If he wanted to move and couldn’t find a flight attendant, then just move and don’t worry about it.  It’s done on virtually every non-full flight in the USA.  But how bad were the kids?  He doesn’t describe any bad behavior beyond they were a “challenge to avoid”.  Really?  That’s it?

    Sorry the flight attendants were lazy idiots.  Unfortunately, that’s all too common nowadays given their perceived authority as “protectors of the skies”.  Yes, AA should have responded more appropriately.  So you know what that tells you?  They don’t care and fly another airline.

    I think this case is pretty well closed.  The OP isn’t owed anything and AA showed how much they (don’t) care about his patronage.  As such, there’s nothing to mediate. 

  33.  I am sorry about their bad flight but it sounded like a short flight and we don’t know why the attendants were doing what they were doing.  maybe they were on break and just didn’t notice.  In any case, why didn’t the passenger just tap one of them on the shoulder?  

    1. TOUCH a flight attendant??  That surely is a Federal crime.  At least the ones I have seen be touched by passengers act that way.  He probably would have had the police waiting for him at the airport and faced a charge of “Interfering” with a flight attendant.  After all, they would have lost their high score!

      1. Cordiality always works for me.  As long as you are civil, patient, and respectful, I have never had a problem even if the attendant was busy or annoyed.

  34. What I find amazing about this story is that I seem to be the only one who is taken aback that he had to pay extra so he and his partner could sit together.  What happened to  FAs finding seats together for two traveling companions if two seats together are available?  And, how many times have you seen a passenger grab a seat that is unoccupied right before take off without even bothering to say something to an FA?  I guess I’m just too old and remember when flying was a pleasurable experience and not an exercise in having to try and job the system – either by the FA or the passenger! 

    1. Because people don’t like giving up seats. I book aisles. I don’t care if your kid/dog/partner/elderly mother/autistic son wants to sit there, tough toenails. Sit in YOUR seat. 

  35.  I voted yes because while I don’t think the OP deserves a refund, he deserves an explanation and apology.

    I say no refund because he got what he paid for–two “premium” seats. No airline has “child free” zones, so he has no right to expect no kids around. If the kids were really out of control, then the FAs should’ve said something to the breeders/parents.

  36. Maybe they ignored him on purpose because he was exuding attitude — compaining about his seats, complaining about the babies, complaining, complaining, complaining. They saw his light go on and ignored him because he was a miserable bully. When he complained to American, the cabin staff probably filled the home office in on what a jerk he was, perhaps it was even noted in his record. The staff is there to safety, some help and to distribute beverages. They aren’t there to provide therapy for every Oscar the Grouch who hates kids. 

  37. He should start by responding to the email stating that it did not adquately address his concerns. Then if he receives the same form response, respond again and ask that the issue be escalated beyond a tier 1 response. After that I would maybe print out the email thread and start mailing copies to American. I know they SHOULD get it right the first time, but I usually like to give companies 3 chances to fail. One chance for them to catch the mistake and another chance to escalate it correctly.

  38. The only thing that should be addressed is the lack of response by the flight attendants.  Regardless of the time of day or how long the flight was, someone should have responded to the call button even if it was just to tell the OP to leave them alone.  The flight attendants didn’t know why the call button was pressed, it could have been something important.  Being so wrapped up in a game that they are not aware of their surroundings is not good for the safety of the passengers or themselves.

    I have been on hundreds of flights ranging from 30 minutes to 12 hours in length and regardless of which cabin it was a flight attendant responded to all call buttons on every flight (sometimes a little slowly, but they eventually showed up).  I know the flight attendants have a meal break on a flight that operates during meal times, but not all of them take their break at the same time (at least on the airlines I fly) so someone is always available.  

  39. Oh come on.  These attendants were supposed to be on duty.  Instead they’re playing kid’s games on an iPod?  How about simple adult responsibility?  The airline should have apologized for its employees’ very unprofessional behavior, given a refund of the upgrade fee, agreed that the employees in question will be given a little workplace counseling, and thrown in a $100 credit for another flight.

    It seems as if there is less and less accountability every day.  Where have all the adults gone….

    Lonnie

  40. We all take our chances with children in the cabin.  They could be many rows ahead or behind and still disrupt the rest of the passengers, so moving seats will not necessarily take care of the problem if they are truly unruly and loud.  On the other hand, there is no excuse for the attendants.  They are AT WORK.  Can an attorney sit in court doing this while “listening” to the other counsel argue his case?  Can a secretary while her phone is ringing off the hook?  What about a store salesperson or a short-order cook?  Of course not.  Allowing one attendant to behave like this will only suggest to others that it is permissible behaviour.  I voted yes to corral that.

  41. The real problem here ended up not being the children but the attendants who were “playing” on duty and ignoring their customers! I cannot believe the corporate office was happy to learn this (complete with photo) but rather they were putting on their game face (no pun intended) by sending the form letter (hoping the customer would go away).

  42. Sometimes the flight attendant can get more passengers to accept a request to move by offering to kiss their butts as opposed to just being prepared to save their butts.

    Of course the FA can also offer tangible things such as vouchers for future flight discounts, or complimentary meals. Just a drink or two will not satify me.

  43. Honestly, I think that while compensation is not warranted for the customer, Disciplinary action for the employees is 100% warranted. All companies in the world have rules about this type of behavior? And while this was a minor occurrence, what if someone was critically ill or there was a major situation requiring the their full attention.

    Pzlams hit it right on the head. My office is a lot more relaxed than his, but we do not have access to games or reading material that is not work related. We have several projects going on that we can devote time to. I personally handle Customer service issues trying to balance customer satisfaction with the fact I do not have the boots on the ground that I need.

    I try to keep myself available for my customers, even if I’m working on a project. My customers come first.

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