It was this past Tuesday. I was on my way from Syracuse NY, to where I had flown earlier in the day on business, to the Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Booked through US Airways, the flight up was RDU to DCA (Washington Reagan) with a connection to Syracuse, Hancock International. I departed at 8:20 a.m. from Raleigh; arrived in Syracuse prior to noon. The return—Syracuse to Philadelphia to RDU—was scheduled for 6:35 p.m., giving me just the right amount of time to visit the customer near downtown. Matter of fact, the meeting went so well, it concluded early and a business associate and I found ourselves in the only bar in a pitiful wing of the Syracuse Airport, a wing only occupied by US Airways, possibly only by those affiliated airlines US Airways employes to move its customers into many small destinations.
Neither of us wanted more than a snack, our first meal following early morning breakfast, and a Coke or Pepsi, whichever is the official soft drink of that port. Each of us enjoyed the carbonated fountain drink served over ice in a 12-ounce clear plastic cup. Matter of fact, we each had one complete refill, not right for my weight but okay because of my recent loss of 10 pounds. (Amazing what a dramatic reduction in alcohol intake does along with just enough food to fill my stomach.) We discussed the client meeting and plotted strategy, waiting for our flights, mine at 6:35 p.m. and his shortly after 7:00 p.m. It was just before six o’clock when I asked the bartender for another hit of Coke or Pepsi, whichever the official drink is, stopping the pour just past the halfway mark on the plastic cup, now something I owned. My property; bought and paid for. I owned the drink and was transferring it to my body but I also owned that cup and the ice there within.
It was just a few steps to Gate 8 where boarding commenced shortly thereafter. With soft drink in hand, I presented my boarding pass to the gate agent who welcomed me to the flight and who said nothing about the liquid pleasure I was toting. Down the ramp and onto the CRJ, Flight 3677, and right past a pleasant flight attendant, who welcomed me and the other passengers. As it turns out, looks and demeanor can be deceiving. As it turns out, if there’s a wicked-witch of flight attendants, a Nazi of the Air Wisconsin/US Airways airways, a head-case who wants to be a general but obviously is no more than a private with an attitude, a bad-ass-don’t-get-in-my-way attitude, it was this lone flight attendant, described by one female traveler on that flight as a “bitch who is obviously having her period.”
As the passengers were settling in, taking seats, stowing luggage overhead and underneath seats, the flight attendant tried to make announcements, obviously pissed she was only talking to some of the passengers. The others, as usually, were paying her no attention. She asked for consideration three times, the third as if she were standing in front of a third grade glass of students, nearly yelling and demanding consideration and respect. As her voice grew stronger, more people turned towards the front of the plane as she waited for the remainder to do the same. Finally, with complete quiet all around and a stunned cabin of customers, she made her detailed announcements as if she were staring in some Oscar winning role, demanding respect. It was not necessary.
Then she started down the aisle with deliberate movement, looking left and right, demanding that if you were not wearing it, stow it, either overhead of under the seat in front of you. The lady next to me was fishing through her pocketbook in search of God-knows what and the flight attendant said in a no-compromise tone, “That purse goes under the seat in front of you.” And she stayed there until it did. She stopped at the exit row, directly behind me and lectured on exactly what to do in an emergency and asked one person to repeat what she had just said. She even asked another US Airways flight attendant who was on the plane for transportation to another location to move from the rear of the plane to the empty seat across the aisle and one row back from me. “If we have an emergency,” she told her, “I’d like someone with experience in this row.” I wondered if that second attendant had actual experience necessary and then hoped not.
After sweeping the remainder of the plane, she started back to the front and stopped at my seat, 7C. Originally, I had been assigned to 7D. But a 53-year old women and her new-born baby (yes, 53-year old new mother), assigned to 7C, were in my seat. The flight attendant, to her credit, switched our seats because of three oxygen bags on the 7D side of the aisle. She lingered over me a moment and demanded that I relinquish my cup of ice. Now, so as to not have conflicting stories, here’s the email I sent Tuesday afternoon to Air Wisconsin, at the request of a person there, outlining what happened:
I was sipping the drink, nearly completed, crunching the ice which helps my cough, especially when my throat is dry. We were taxing toward the runway when the flight attendant approached and said she would take my cup for me. I told her that she didn’t need to do that. I was not through with it. She said that I did not understand, that she was going to take it due to rules and regulations. I challenged her on that, asking for the rule and regulation, saying it could not possibly be an FAA rule or regulation. She said I could look it up later on the Internet. I then again refused to give her the cup—which was my property—and she said if I didn’t she would ask the pilot to return to the terminal/gate and leave me there. She then demanded that I give her the cup. I was stunned at what she was saying. Then, she actually reached down and took it from me. I asked for her name and badge number. She refused saying I had the flight number and could call the airline to get the information. I then turned to another US Airways flight attendant who was on the plan to catch another flight or go home and who was seated a row back, across the aisle, to ask her if what just happened was right. She started telling me about picking up service items, but I quickly told her that the cup was mine, not provided by the airlines and that I could keep it as I had done on many other flights. She stood by the active flight attendant, saying I was wrong. I started to challenge her on her statement when the active flight attendant returned and asked if I was arguing with the second flight attendant. I told her I was not arguing, that I was asking questions about what had just happened. The seated flight attendant confirmed that to the active flight attendant who then turned to me and said, “I do not like your attitude. Any more from you and I will have the plane return to the gate and have you removed.” She then moved forward to the front of the aircraft and began talking on the communications line, but I do not know to whom she was speaking. There were no more confrontations the rest of the flight. Nothing was said when I departed the plane.
I also called the Syracuse Airport police department. An officer told me I could not charge the flight attendant with theft or communicating a threat. I was also told by Officer Finney with whom I talked on the telephone that if I wanted the telephone number of the police chief I could call directory assistance or look it up on the internet. She also wouldn’t spell her last name or give me her badge number. My guess is she might be related to that flight attendant. Sounded like it anyway. When I told the police officer that because of her attitude I would consider no more travel to Syracuse to spend money there, she said she didn’t care. I did talk with a concerned lady, at the Syracuse Airport authority, who was appalled at the attitude of the police officer, concerned about the flight attendant and would talk with her boss about it.
In calling Air Wisconsin, I talked with Julie Hemingway who was extremely nice and concerned. She listened to my story and then spoke with Mr. Bill Palmer a managing director for training of flight attendants. When she called me a little later, she confirmed what I knew all along: The cup was my property and the flight attendant should not have demanded it much less taken it from me. Also, the flight attendant is required to give me her first name and badge number. I was told by Ms. Hemingway that she will be reprimanded for these actions. I suggested firing her was a good solution. Ms. Hemingway also asked that I send an email outlining everything, which I did.
In the email, I continued with:
—I am asking for an official apology from US Airways, Air Wisconsin and the flight attendant. (This is not one blanket apology; this comes from three people.)
—I want Mr. Palmer or another Air Wisconsin official to tell me in an email that the stealing of the cup was wrong, that I should have been allowed to keep the cup for as long as I wish.
—I want Mr. Palmer or another Air Wisconsin official to tell me in an email that the flight attendant broke company rules and regulations by not providing at a minimum her first name and badge number.
I was simply trying to get home Tuesday evening and had to deal with that woman, the flight attendant from hell, the one who steals, threatens and refuses to follow rules and regulations as outlined and required by her employer. It has caused me reason for pause when it comes to scheduling flights with US Airways and Air Wisconsin, though AW can rectify this with me by providing me with what I am asking.
I await the response in writing and will continue this story one way or another. I promise Air Wisconsin that I will gladly publish its response, but will also publish it's lack thereof.