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Did a Delta Flight Attendant Overreact with Exit Row Passengers? Or Was She in the Right?

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Hot on the heels of yesterday’s post about a man punching a woman’s seat because she reclined, we have some more controversy.

FlyerTalker “vincentharris” says:

On a MD90 recently and the [Flight Attendant] came to do the exit row speech and two people (one aisle one window) both had headphones on not listening.

FA proceeded to snap her fingers in both of their faces and then declare “don’t you dare disrespect me. I’m in charge and you’ll listen.”

Did not directly affect me but I was blown away at the rudeness and frankly talking to adults like they were a 3 year old who spilled juice on the carpet.

didn’t bother writing in because I was not one of those two people and frankly DL could care less about complaint letters but wondering if others found that to be wrong or not?

Well, then.

At first, I wondered if the flight attendant possesses a unique sense of humor and/or was already acquainted with the passengers. Or maybe they’re friends or family with underlying issues?

vincentharris explains later in the thread:

…the tone used was VERY confrontational. The snapping finger thing to me felt very rude as well as it was within 1 inch of their face and was not meant to “get their attention” but “get their attention and let them know I’m in charge” especially with her speech. A simple shoulder tap would have been a much more polite way to get someone’s attention.

Not everyone is comfortable being touched, however. (One of my friends goes nuclear when someone touches him in order to get his attention.) That’s understandable.

Perhaps waving a hand near their faces would have done the trick?

The whole “Don’t you dare disrespect me” bit — assuming it was confrontational and vincentharris’ recollection is accurate — seems a little heavy-handed.

It’s entirely possible the flight attendant and these passengers had some sort of negative interaction prior to or during boarding. Or maybe she saw them acting disrespectfully somewhere at the airport?

Rant: Exit Row Attitude — Why?

I’ll never understand exit row occupants who can’t be bothered to listen to 15 seconds (if that) of a quick safety briefing and respond “yes.”

You know the type.

I don’t care whether or not someone paid for the extra legroom. If they must cop an attitude because a flight attendant asks a safety-related question, why should anyone on board trust them in case of an emergency? If a flight attendant issues an order, will the annoyed passenger go, Whatever! I have a better idea!?

I’m not implying that happened in this instance. Personally, though, I rarely wear earphones during the boarding process because that’s when pertinent announcements about departure (late, early, whatever) and other information are usually issued.

I know a lot of people wear earphones every second possible, though. I’m guessing the passengers in question were simply oblivious to the flight attendant. But if this wasn’t their first exit seat rodeo, they should’ve kept their eyes peeled for a briefing. (Or maybe they did and their timing was off.)

Was Commanding Respect Disrespectful?

Flight attendants put up with a lot. Our safety is their job. I can only imagine it’s frustrating when passengers make their jobs difficult — intentionally or otherwise.

But issuing a “don’t you dare disrespect me” command if the passengers weren’t out of line — and that’s how the situation went down — is uncalled for and unacceptable.

And embarrassing for not just the passengers — but also the flight attendant.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the below Comments section.

— Chris

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  1. 1. No one (in this case flight attendants) likes to be ignored, especially when they’ve got a lot of tasks to accomplish in a short time.
    2. This is not brain surgery. You know the drill. When the flight attendant comes by, you listen to the safety piece, agree to do it, put your headphones back on.
    3. Nothing says, “entitled person” by shutting out the world and making others beg for your attention so you may benefit.

  2. I was on a flight last year (I fly so much, I don’t recall what city I was in and when). Anyway there were two people wearing head phones in the exit row when the FA asked them to remove their head phones. The FA had to ask them twice to take off the headphones. At first they had a problem. I could hear the attitude from the passengers towards the FA. I was one row behind the exit row. When the FA explained to them that they have the responsibility of everyone getting out alive if something should happen and they are responsible and possiblly the only ones that could make a difference between life and death of not only themselves but the rest of the passengers. They both apologized to the FA and stated they didn’t realize this.

    I heard them apologize to the FA two more times during the flight and the FA states that they have a big responsibility by sitting there. The FA was nice about it and I saw the difference in both passengers after they were advised about the responsibility of sitting there. (I don’t know if they were frequent fliers or in experienced flyers). They appeared more in the inexperianced fliers type.

    I believe the FA’s needs to get the attention of all the passengers.

    I fly sometimes 10+ flights a week all over the U.S. including connections. I always pay attention to the FA’s and watch the Safety Briefings and the TV screens or in some cases the FA’s doing there live presentations, I also read the Safety Cards in the seat pocket, and locate the nearest exit row, just in case. I rely on the people in the exit row to open the doors if god forbid something bad happens.

    I know all of us freuquent fliers will not agree with me. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion, but when it comes time to a real emergency will you remember what to do?

    I’ll give and example – – I had an engine fire on one my flights many years and when we landed the plane stopped on the tarmac, and the fire department immediately put the foam on the engines. (I’m shaking now reliving the past. It was scary, I remember the lady next to squeezed my hand so hard due to she was scared).

    Anyway, please everyone listen and pay attention to all the FA’s. They are there for our safety as well as providing other services as well. and remember you can make the difference between your life as well as everyone else on the plane.

    Title 14: Aeronautics and Space
    Subpart F—Large and Turbine-Powered Multiengine Airplanes and Fractional Ownership Program Aircraft
    §91.1035 and
    §91.519 Passenger briefing – (a) Before each takeoff the pilot in command of an airplane carrying passengers shall ensure that all passengers have been orally briefed on—

    Thank you

  3. José Arcoverde Reply

    The flight attendant was right. It was a disrespect not to listen to her in the first place. If they acted like kids, the asked to be treated like one too.

  4. As a former flight attendant I well know her frustration. However snapping her fingers and declaring herself in charge was way over the top. If Delta management finds out she be disciplined.

  5. I blame the attitude of the exit row passenger. Whether or not they have paid extra for the seat, they have specifically agreed to cooperate with airline staff to help with aircraft safety features, namely the exit door. If they are not interested enough to hear safety procedures (and having headphones on are a clear indication of that), they should be moved to another row.

  6. Once again Americans show how rude and disrespectful they are around the World.
    Why do you think rest of the World hates Americans?

  7. IMO all three were disrespectful but the FA went over the top. A wave or a gesture to remove the headphones should have been her first tactic. If that failed, then maybe snap the fingers or touch their shoulders if that’s allowed.

    And people who proclaim that they’ve been “disrespected” lose a lot of respect equity in my own evaluations of them.

  8. Gotta love Aeromexico. You’re not allowed to wear headphones during takeoff/climb out and during descent/landing. You also cannot use power outlets during these flight phases. As to the FA in the above case, I believe it would have been more effective if she had reassigned seats to the clueless exit row passengers.

  9. My first question is, was this Delta or Compass Air flying a Delta flight? Knowing, and loving the fact Delta is getting rid of Compass Air this year!!!!! Maybe it is just sour grapes on the way out? Yes, this was a bit over the top but we all know the drill, if you have the privilege of getting that extra leg room, you have to face the FA and nod that you understand your responsibilities, whether you are a million miler and can recite the safety speech better than the FA or not, you know the drill, AND be polite first.

  10. Charles Webb Reply

    Tough to really know what happened from the descriptions, above. But it seems to me that the F/A went a bit out of bounds, and should receive some sensitivity and human interactions training. If the facts were EXACTLY as described, then I would have been very put off by the approach the F/A took,and i would have detailed those feelings in a letter to Delta. But I also would NOT have ignored her attempt to do the requisite dialog about exit row responsibilities.

  11. Hi Chris-so I was in the exit row when I flew from PHX to ATL last week and the Delta FA had to get the attention of a couple of people in the exit row. She was “polite” at first and literally had to tell one of the guys who had his headphones on to take it off so she could get a verbal confirmation of his willingness to assist in case of an emergency. Even though I fly a little bit, I always pay attention to the FA when I am in C+ exit row (since I can still get my free drink) or exit row in general. Have seen a passenger almost hit a FA when he was touched to get his attention for the safety briefing. If you truly aren’t going to assist in an emergency, don’t seat in the row for more leg room.

  12. It sucks that people weren’t listening and that people are jerks, but FAs *must* keep their cool if they’re going to keep us safe; that’s the primary reason they’re in the cabin. If we can’t trust them to keep calm under pressure, we’re in a lot of trouble.

    I watched a mainline Delta FAs flip out on a Diamond passenger for having a snack, that was given to them from another FA . I sometimes really wonder if a FA is going to be useful in an emergency if they can’t even calmly engage passengers about snacks.

  13. HuntingtonGuy Reply

    Flight Attendants have a job to do, an important one at that. They are also human and are subject to frustrations and annoyance like the rest of us. That said, while the vast majority of Flight Attendants are highly professional and do a terrific job, often in spite of what some passengers give them to work with I think we have all encountered the rare but real FA who has an attitude not conducive to the profession. I like to believe I am a pretty good passenger and respect the work the crew do but I was on the receiving end of a nasty FA about 2 years ago. IMO she was little caught up in her “authority” and less connected to the other components of her job. That was not on Delta but the FA did not represent her airline or profession well that day.
    In this instance I’d think unless several attempts to communicate had been ignored or rebuffed, the FA could have used more tact.

  14. Ever since 9/11, FAs have acted like gods with chips on their shoulders. They have been given too much power and it has gone to their heads. They are disrespectful and rude to anyone who is in “the back” (not in first class). The incident described here does not surprise me in the least; it is what I have come to expect.

    • @Mickey: Really? With the exception of maybe one or two cranky FAs, I consistently have great cabin crews. If they power issues, they haven’t shown it.

  15. I am a believer in the importance of the responsibilities while sitting in the emergency aisle. In today’s world there are many job duties that requires special certifications. I think it would be a good idea if airlines offered training sessions to passengers on how to properly open the doors of the airplane in an emergency. Perhaps a 15 minute course on a simulator that would be in a area of the airport. After successfully passing the course and receiving the certification a passenger would be permitted to sit in the emergency aisle of the airplane.

    My 2 cents.

  16. I have flown American Airlines internationally many times in the past 2 years and what I don’t get is when you book your seat and you know you are in an exit row which I tend to book if possible, you have to acknowledge that fact. You already know you will need to help out. Ok. Then when you are in line to have your boarding pass scanned, the agent at the gate then reminds you that you are in an exit row and asks if that is ok so you can help out if needed. Yes. Then I am seated and right before are back away from the gate the flight attendant comes and does the whole spiel again. I always by this time have my airpods in and watching netflix or whatever. When they come around, I turn off whatever I am watching and listen to them and answer again. Well, this last time the flight attendant asked me to take one of the airpods out to listen. I told her I could hear her and she started to get some attitude so before I became a viral story on the internet I took one out to listen. After she was done I tried asking her why I needed to be asked on 3 separate occasions about sitting in an exit row and she just walked away quickly. I mean, come on, I know I am in an exit row and know what to do in case of an emergency. I don’t need to be reminded over and over. What gives?

  17. At least she tried to give a briefing, on a AA flight from San Jose to Miami, no briefing for exit seat and passengers at the other side allowed to keep all their bag stolen on the floor during take off and landing

  18. As a Flight Attendant myself. I do feel like there may have been more to the story, like you said; another possible interaction somewhere else during the boarding process. Even then, that seems like a harsh tone to take with customers. I get elites and frequent fliers listen to the same speech multiple times a week. I get tired of saying it multiple times a day on trips sometimes. Getting the attention of someone with headphones or on a phone call doesn’t need to be abrasive. This is a required briefing by the FAA, it is a conversation we have to make sure if we can’t get to the over-wing or mid-cabin exits they’ll know what to do to continue the evacuation process. The job isn’t all Coke and Coffee and not a lot of people realize this. These passengers may not have known that, but again the FA should have carried herself in a better manner. Especially, since it was their profit sharing day yesterday.

  19. Joseph Costa Reply

    I have flown many times and have never had an issue with any of the flight attendants. I have always said hello when entering and always listen to the 5 minutes of directions they have to give legally. Its their job. And pretty much tune out everything until landing. I have been on many 14 hour flights and sleep through most of it when possible, Yes they are people like everyone else. And have good days and bad days. As flyers we need to understand that. Most people tend to be very rude or angry before ever getting on a flight to be crammed in like sardines. A smile and yes mam or yes sir goes a long way. We as passengers and say what we want under our breath but too many today just can not keep their mouths shut. Yes I have seen some flight attendants on videos in the wrong. But its best to just go with things at the time and file complaints when possible after the fact. Because creating disruptions only create problems making your time in that seat even longer dealing with issues. There are times and places to complain. Right at the time on the Jet only creates more problems. If wronged most airlines try to make up some how and just do not accept free miles but free round trip.

  20. First, flight attendants are on the plane to provide for the safety of the flying public. Second, far too many people think that because the paid for a ticket that are entitled to do whatever they please, case in point, the guy punching the seat. Quite frankly I would have decked him. Third, sitting in the exit row means that you have voluntarily assumed a duty of care for all other people on the plane. You are agreeing to insure that the doors are opened properly in time of emergency for the good of all passengers. I think the airline should make people sign a document to sit in the exit row so they get the point. Four, because the safety of all passengers is assumed by the person in the exit row, they must pay attention to the flight attendant and should listen. In the end, her actions may have been over the top, but they were necessary to gain the attention of these self absorbed individuals.

  21. Frequently I see stewards speaking with those seated in exit rows while the plane is boarding. That way they can make the conversation personal and interact with the passengers to determine whether they might be incapable of handling the responsibilities or sitting in the Exit Row.

  22. @dallas The flight attendant asks you on board the flight because the FAA requires a visual of the person sitting in the exit row and a verbal confirmation that they know they are and willing to help. FAA regulation. Period.

    There have been instances of people switching seats once on board the plane. The flight attendant needs to confirm that the butt actually sitting in that exit seat can do is what is required in the event of an emergency.

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