This is a heartbreaking story, and actually raises an interesting “what would you do?” question.
Via The Consumerist:
In what can only be described as a tragic turn of events, a Wisconsin woman says that after she received a troubling text from her husband while on board a Southwest Airlines flight about to take off, she was told she couldn’t call him. When she arrived home, police informed her that her husband had taken his own life.
The woman says the alarming text came moments before her flight from New Orleans to Milwaukee was set to take off, when he sent a message asking her for forgiveness for committing suicide, reports WTMJ-4 News.
“I started shaking the minute I got the text and I was panicked, I didn’t know what to do,” she said, adding that she immediately replied “no,” and went to call him.
But a flight attendant making her final checks told her she had to turn her phone off or put it in airplane mode, and “slapped the phone down,” the passenger says.
When she explained the situation, the woman says the attendant told her it was “FAA regulations.”
After the flight reached cruising altitude she explained what was going on to another crewmember, saying she begged her to somehow get an emergency call out, but that that attendant also said there was nothing she could do.
And here’s a WTMJ-4 News video about it:
So to recap:
- Her husband texted her while her flight was taxiing out to say he was going to commit suicide
- The flight attendant told her to put her phone in airplane mode, per FAA regulations
- Once at cruising altitude, the crew said there was nothing they could do to help, and the pilots were never informed of the situation
Certainly the suicide isn’t Southwest’s fault, and chances are nothing could be done either way. But at the same time I can’t help but wonder what I’d do in that situation:
- She could have just disobeyed flight attendant instructions and the plane would have returned to the gate; whatever the punishment would have been would presumably be less significant than her husband committing suicide
- The pilots absolutely could have contacted the ground once at cruising altitude to inform them of the situation; that being said, I get that this is a slippery slope, and crews are probably pretty jaded when it comes to issues not involving flight safety
While I don’t in any way think Southwest is liable for the situation, they certainly could have acted with more compassion, from the sound of it. If I were in a similar situation I would have probably disobeyed crew member instructions, even if it meant I was kicked off and the flight was met by authorities.
What would you do in a similar situation, and do you think Southwest handled the situation incorrectly?