About That Lady Who Was Kicked Off The American Flight…

On Tuesday I posted about the story of a lady who was kicked off a US Airways flight between Phoenix and Portland after getting in a disagreement with the flight attendant.

It’s fairly common for passengers to be removed from flights nowadays, as airline employees have a ton of discretion post-9/11 to do things in the name of “security.”

What made this situation unique is that all of the passengers who witnessed her being removed from the plane were outraged at what happened, to the point that they talked to the captain after the flight.

Here’s the YouTube video of the passenger being removed from the plane, along with the caption:

This poor girl didn’t hear Tim (in aisle) the flight attendant ask her to move to let someone else by. Tim then yelled for her to move and it upset her, yet she still apologized to Tim. After sitting, the girl mentioned to a different attendant Tim was rude to her. Next thing we know, the girl is thrown off the plane. After the flight about 20 of us grabbed the pilot at the gate and complained. That shear number proves Tim was just being an ass. USAir/American flight 408 (Phoenix to Portland) Oct 11, 2015.

There are a couple of interesting follow ups to the story, which I think are worth examining.

First of all, Rants Of A Sassy Stew makes the following claim as to what “really” happened:

According to witnesses coming forward, Female Passenger (FP) was already angry as she boarded the plane. FA Tim was attempting to usher a military passenger to his seat in the exit row. FA Tim then politely asked FP to “please hold on” three times. THREE. TIMES. She refused to acknowledge him. FA Tim then asked FP if she had heard his requests. FP then walked by FA Tim and stated “Yes I did, you fucking faggot!” as she passed him.

Now on one hand I don’t want to doubt this story, but at the same time they don’t name any of the witnesses, and Rants Of A Sassy Stew is known for being rabidly pro-flight attendant (as you’d expect). So I’m not sure how much weight I’d put on those reports, since they conflict with any of the other people quoted regarding what happened. Playing the “derogatory term” card is easy to resort to in a situation like this.

Anyway, The Washington Post has a follow-up story today about the incident, with the 27 year old traveler’s recollection of what happened:

To hear the traveler tell it, the boarding of US Airways/American Airlines Flight 408 began in a manner no different from any other flight. There were lines, some crowding, some disgruntled passengers.

As she waited in the aisle to get to her seat, Fough chatted casually with another passenger in front of her. Then a flight attendant started yelling.

“Stay right there,” he shouted, in Fough’s account. “I asked you three times.”

Bewildered, Fough asked, “What’s going on?”

“You can get off this flight,” the attendant said. “I’ll kick you off of this plane right now.”

Fough recounted that while the attendant was wearing a button-up shirt with the trademark winged pin of flight crews, he had on neither a name tag nor the uniform that the other attendants were wearing.

After refusing to give Fough his name, she said, he dismissed her with a curt, “Go.”

At her seat, a bewildered Fough started sobbing. Other passengers were comforting her when the flight attendant appeared again. He started opening the overhead compartments around her seat. “Where’s your bag?” he said. “You’re getting off this plane. I’m going to kick you off this plane.”

All the eyewitness reports seem to back her story, and the only “source” who seems to have made a claim regarding the derogatory term was the pilot, who was presumably told that by the flight attendant:

Several of the other passengers on Flight 408 have since reached out to express their support, including one who said many of them approached the pilot after landing to complain. This passenger told Fough that the pilot said she had called another flight attendant — one Fough claims she never came into contact with — a derogatory term.

American has apparently been in touch with the passenger, and offered her a $250 voucher. She refused, since she never wants to fly American again, and is seeking legal counsel:

“We are in contact with the passenger and have apologized,” the statement reads. “We have addressed the issue with our team members to ensure we provide a consistent, quality travel experience for our customers in the future.”

Fough isn’t satisfied with the concession. After Byrne’s video appeared on the news, she said, a customer service representative contacted her and offered her a $250 voucher. When Fough told the employee she would never use it, she was offered the money in cash.

“That’s how you’re going to solve this problem?” said Fough, who is seeking legal counsel. “What about my rights?”

I’m not sure she’ll get anywhere seeking legal counsel, though I’m curious to see what comes of this.

Bottom line

There are two sides to every story. In this instance, everyone who has come forward seems to be backing the passenger. Based on the short clip we see of the flight attendant, I’m not especially inclined to believe him given his attitude.

For that matter, assuming she did call him a derogatory term (which I think is terrible and unacceptable), I’m not actually convinced that should be grounds from being removed from a plane. Unless there’s a safety issue and they really thought she posed a threat to the flight, I’m not sure what taking her off a flight and rebooking her on another one would accomplish.

It’s one thing if American said “we don’t stand for such comments, and will refund your ticket and refuse to transport you.” But I’m not sure what exactly is being accomplished by removing someone who used a derogatory term and rebooking them on another flight. And that’s assuming she used that term, which seems unsubstantiated…

What do you make of this situation?

Comments

  1. ‘I asked you three times’ (a clear reference to ‘disobeying’ crew instructions)…. is starting to sound an awful lot like the police shouting ‘stop resisting’ when they are using unnecessary force to arrest someone.

    Is anyone really buying this cr*p?

  2. I have a hard time believing a derogatory term was used. If it was, the passenger wouldn’t have received the universal support of her fellow passengers.

  3. I’ll call out the emperor for being butt naked on this one. The FA is obviously lying. I hope the woman’s lawsuit gets her a big check. This whole situation really seems emblematic of the power mad flight attendant that really needs to be working away from other people.

  4. I heard the passenger give an interview to Fox and I have a hard time believing she used a deragatory term towards the flight attendant.

  5. Even if she didn’t use to derogatory word the flight attendant claimed was being used, it sure sounds like he was acting like one…

  6. She should take legal action and see if she can get enough people on board to get it certified as a class action suit with the goal of forcing airlines and staff to adhere to a strict set of standards for what constitutes “safety” vs. the typical bullshit we’re hearing about. If they’re going to give someone the boot for “safety” reasons, they better have a damned good reason for doing it or face significant penalties.

  7. I think the FA’s story is complete BS. But even if it is true, it does NOT justify throwing this pax off the plane. I have been called far worse names during my flying career – I’ve even been puked on. But I took it like the professional that I am. This FA needs to be fired immediately.

  8. $250 for being publicly humiliated, not to mention grossly inconvenienced? How utterly cheap.

    And I really doubt she called the flight attendant anything at all. That sounds to me like the FA’s after-the-fact justification for making a complete ass of himself.

  9. So, I’m surprised nobody has suggested this yet.

    Could there have been a second passenger — perhaps one of the “disgruntled” ones — who did confront the flight attendant, block the aisle, and/or use inappropriate language? If the perpetrator (a) looked roughly similar to Fough, and (b) moved out of the way during the incident, it seems plausible that the FA could have mistakenly pinned the blame on Fough.

    This would explain why (1) the FA and Sassy Stew are both convinced that a passenger deserved to be kicked off, but (2) Fough and all the nearby passengers were baffled and convinced that Fough was blameless.

  10. Lucky, I love the blog! You mention that since 9/11 people getting kicked off the plane is “fairly common”. Honestly, I really don’t believe that. I’ve been a flight attendant for over 9 years and have never had nor seen a passenger kicked off the flight. Have you seen this as a common occurrence in your travels? Have I just been lucky? I truly believe this passenger must have done something to deserve getting kicked off. Flight attendants really don’t got out of the way to kick someone off, and they want to have an uneventful flight like everyone else. Totally think this is being blown out of proportion.

  11. Travis Swanson – I was kicked off a flight for saying something to the FA in the concourse because our flight was delayed because she got to the airport late. No derogatory words were used, nothing said about her mother or her racial heritage or religion. When I did board, she wanted to know if I changed my attitude – that set me off since she was the one yelling at me in the concourse. Before I said anything I looked to my left and saw that the cockpit door was open and decided to rebut her a little loudly in the hopes that the pilot would here. Once she kicked me off, the gate agent came to my rescue, she did talk to the pilot who did hear the confrontation and the pilot came to me in the jetway. She did ask that I report the FA and told me how to do it. So yes, I’ve seen FA on power trips and it is not fun and quite embarrassing.

  12. $250!!!! What are they smoking!! Add another zero and it’s still not enough to compensate for what the lady was put through. Not inclined to believe the FA based on the video clip. I hope she sues them and gets compensated properly.

  13. You’re on a plane. This is the flight attendants domain. What they say goes – there is no higher authority (even if the cockpit door is open – did you really think a loud rebuttal was going to work Jane S or were you just trying to be difficult). How to have a pleasant flight – shut up and buckle your belt. No flight atendant is trying to make trouble – they would never survive a day of you annoying idiots. Anyone trying to make a nuisance of themselves while the cockpit door is open has marked themselves out as a trouble maker – now how to deal with this person – now or at 40,000 feet – only a complete incompetent would allow this person to fly and cause more problems once the door is closed – flying is a privelege not a right and flight attendants control that privelege – keep that in mind.

  14. Your blocking the aisle, move peasant ; why can everyone just stay calm and let people put their junk in the overhead compartment.

  15. Marcus not saying that what Jane S did was smart or right, but attitude like yours is what keeps these low life FAs on their power trips.

    I just treat American FAs like the pariahs they are and I do not engage for any reason. And I avoid flying American US airlines where possible.

  16. @Marcus, I hope I never have the great displeasure of being a pax on one of your flights. I couldn’t survive a day flying under “the domain of an annoying idiot.”

    Ben, what was the point of leading your post with the obviously b.s., circle the wagons, slanderous lies of that two-bit flight attendant?

  17. If this woman said what she is supposed to have said to the FA, even if it was not shouted at him, I would have thought “OK bitch, you’re in for an uncomfortable ride with no service!” as I smiled and asked her to take her seat and buckle up. From her version of the story it is difficult to tell who was the bigger drama queen!

  18. It’s so cute to watch Americans pretend that America is any different than Russia. OK fine gays can marry, which i don’t care about either way. Other than that we have oligarchs, corruption, racism, one party hell bent disenfranchising people. We have mass murders, thousands of rape kits untested for years. And jerks that bend rules and find loophole to pay as little tax as possible and call themselves patriots and run for president.

  19. @Travis Swanson or others,
    Can you describe how easy or difficult it is or would be for you as an f/a to kick someone off a flight? What are the implications for you if you kick someone off? Do you just fill out a carbon copy report, or would you have to spend days in the office meeting after meeting explaining it and completing numerous reports & paperwork?

    How nervous would you be about your airlines reaction or consequences if you throw someone off a flight? DO you feel your airline would do a thorough investigation taking time to really dig in to analyzing both sides of the story?

    I think the concern is after 9/11 there is this embolden security culture where almost anything can be done in the name of safety and or security; and I think this paranoia can go too far. It could be something like the Salem witch trials, as long as the employee says the magic words of either safety, security, or both; then the presumption is whatever (fill in the blank) is justified.

    I would rather risk some security myself rather than having this culture of anything goes due to safety or security; but I realize that is a preference that all people may not hsare or agree with. I tend to be a risk taker, and I basically think your number is up when its up and I’m not sure how much you can do about that. You could spend your life worrying about security and safety and still your number is up when its up. Kind of like you might have a heart attack at the gym, or you might live to 116 years of age eating bacon every morning. 🙂

    There is little due process or recourse for the pax. They will get some silly remark like AA gave to this one, and I can’t understand why they would offer a small $250 voucher when in many cases for a VDB the voucher amount is higher. If I had to give a number, I would say they should have offered her between $500 and $1000 plus refund of the ticket and some sort of upgrade. I don’t know how long she had to wait until the next flight? I don’t know if there were flights on other airlines they could have written a FIM for?

    I think these situations are rare and the chances they will happen to one individual are small, but still I think they do happen and if it happened to you you would not care that it only affects a small number of travelers. Just like the odds of getting struck by lightning are small, but if you get struck yourself, it doesn’t really matter to you the odds are not good it would happen.

  20. Jay-
    How inconsiderate of you to put all FAs in a group. People like you are the only reason we dislike our jobs at times. Out of the kindness of my (low life) heart. Screw you.

  21. If all the witnesses back the passenger up, the only way American can redeem themselves is by firing the FA.

  22. that’s what happens when you give authority to someone clearly not trained and without psycho background checking, that’s why official jobs especially with guns and similar things are always starting with assessment and training, this FA is just sore wanna-be-pilot-never-made-one without any training how to deal with people except maybe to fake smile and bring sodas, he should lost his job for this and be jailed for some time just to teach him a lesson, you see in Serbia we are almost all of us very angry all the time and on every flight there’s dozen of people ranting and bitching about calling FAs names and shouting at them, not once was I removed or even hushed down, those are pros when you constatly have bad words and shouting and all you do is smile and do your job, America went to “security paranoia” and it’s all your fault.

  23. I’ve seen pax be removed from planes several times. I’ve never seen a situation where the other pax are purportedly so supportive of the ejectee.

    (I say purportedly because I haven’t seen much beyond a few blog posts talking about the support from other pax.)

    Regardless of who is right of wrong on this one, flight crews should be able to apply discretion in removing pax. They should all be aware, however, that their conduct will very likely be recorded, and like police with body-cams, they run the risk that their actions are called into question afterwords.

    The pax should take the $250 in cash and be done with the matter. Give it to a worthwhile charity.

    @Todd: You have no idea what a class action matter is.

  24. Actually, if the FA claimed she used derogatory terms, but no-one else can back that story, it’s slander. She could go a long way suing both AA and the FA.

    But is it worth the legal costs? I doubt it…

  25. Never heard of someone getting booted off a plane?

    Apparently this is a very common occurence, especially in the states. I recall a blog post here a few months ago (summer?) about a blogger who got kicked out because he was taking pictures inside the plane, not showing any faces or employees mind you. How is that a security threat? The airlines need to get their act together when it comes to situations like these. One wrong look and you can expect yourself to wait for the next flight.

  26. Marcus –
    I am sorry that you are unhappy being a flight attendant. However, you are mistaken, flying is not a ‘privilege’, it is a service and the passenger has already been overcharged for it. When hundreds, often thousands of dollars are paid for the service, it is a business transaction, nothing more. Is it a privilege to buy groceries or have your hair cut? No. Just another service that a business offers to the public in exchange for money.

    I do not believe for a second that she cast any aspersions on his sexuality. I would like to introduce you to an acronym, CYA, which is what has occurred in this situation. Tim knows that he made a large error but at the time, he believed that he would get away with it because it was his word against hers. He made the mistake that many police officers have made in the last few years, not realizing that most people carry their phones (cameras) with them everywhere.

  27. Let’s assume she called him a faggot.

    So what?

    Does that make her a terrorist?

    Doesn’t that just make her a jerk?

    Does American refuse to fly jerks and homophobes?

    Isn’t that like at least 10% of the US population?

    Does American want to cut out a big chunk of business?

    As a big fan of slurs myself, I am being told that American is no longer a safe airline for me.

  28. Customer service as well as passenger manners can both be well out of hand at times. I believe both of them. There was obviously a failure to communicate which resulted in the incident which took place onboard the flight.

  29. Sassy Stew is a joke. Some of the stuff she’s been posting lately makes it clear that doing anything beyond sitting quietly in your seat is asking to be passenger shamed and kicked off the plane. A lot of stuff she complains about as if it were a human rights violation quite obviously falls under standard duties any reasonable passenger would expect a flight attendant to carry out.

  30. Bottom line here is NO ONE can verify the events that led to this confrontation. All the name calling and labels are based on speculation.
    Flight Attendants learn that they have to treat everyone fairly but can not expect fair treatment from everyone. It’s just part of the job.

    Second point: a flight delay because a crew member “was late getting to the airport.” While not impossible, it’s VERY unlikely. Crews work several segments a day….your crew from Denver to St. Louis may have started in Philadelphia. Delayed inbound flights cause delayed departures downline. If a crew is unavailable due to (whatever reason) a reserve crew is called in from home if you are in a base city. Just like everyone else, it takes time to get to the airport, clear security, etc.

    Being late to the airport for a trip is the kind of thing that happens once….because you are terminated.

  31. I’ve never had a flight attendant be rude to me or on a “power trip.” I fly quite a bit (for vacation mostly — platinum on United) so I get around. It is my suspicion that the people that get attitude from the FAs are the ones bringing it in the first place. I’m sure there are exceptions but I think much of this would be avoided if passengers acted like adults.

  32. Remember that one FA that went out the emergency slide and then quit??? Lol! Airline workers get treated with distain a lot. I find it hard to believe anything happened since people came to her defense. Misunderstanding?? Bad day on behalf of the FA? I also doubt a FA is going to treat someone with open rudeness and think they’ll get away with it with witnesses everywhere. There is more to this than had come out.

  33. I’m intrigued that flight attendants can throw anyone off an aircraft at all. In my experience, that’s only something the Captain can do, and whilst I have had a few people removed over the years, it’s very rare, and there was never the slightest doubt. It was also never done on just one person’s story.

  34. Thanks for the well-written and balanced follow-up. Interesting. I think that, provided safety is in no way affected, these FA’s on power trips (behaving like over strict school teachers) should have their wings clipped, so to speak. If this doesn’t happen, then I suspect that gradually we will see the very notion and spirit of “service” head in the wrong direction. They will become more of a sort of airline police who are supposed to serve you, but only if you don’t annoy them.
    I believe this will be, and perhaps already is, damaging to American market share, with international travelers opting for the European and Asian carriers wherever possible.

  35. What is sad to me is that no one took up for the passenger while she was being kicked off. Have we become such sheeple that we have to wait until after the flight to tell the pilot the flight attendant was in the wrong? Guess all the other passengers were afraid they’d get kicked off the plane. Why does flying have to be such an unpleasant experience?

  36. Thanks for the follow-up, please run another story when there are further developments. Agree seems the pax was pretty blameless given the reaction from others!

  37. In your blog, you say, “…Based on the short clip we see of the flight attendant, I’m not especially inclined to believe him given his attitude.” The clip is of the female FA who is removing the sobbing woman. So we truly do not have any of the male FA or anything leading up to her ouster. Given her extreme emotional state, I think the woman pax was acting a little guilty. My four year old only reacts like this when she is caught red-handed. I think sometimes pax get removed a little too hastily but gate turn-arounds are fast and no one wants a problem pax left on a flight.

  38. Sassy Stew said she had multiple witnesses coming forward….10 days ago! No follow up with any witnesses to date. I say she owes Ms. Fough an apology for slandering her.

  39. “Usher a military passenger to his seat in the exit row?” Where is the explanation for why this person needed ushering? At any rate it shows that there was no urgency for anyone to get by her.

    Despicable conduct on the part of AA.

  40. I have no knowledge of this incident, but I can say that, in my experience, American Airlines has the worse customer service and the most arrogant flight attendants I’ve ever seen, other than Spirit air. I think 911 has created a bunch of wannabe cop power mungers in many situations.

  41. I wasn’t there, but, I’ve read the stories, and what was supposedly said to the flight attendant. Based on the quote I read, It sounded much more like what a guy would say to a homosexual male, NOT something that would come from a female. I don’t know if the FA is or isn’t, but, if the quote is correct, about his orientation, that is, then I would be suspicious of the FA. The quote simply does not sound like something a woman would say.

  42. Political correctness police…people who speak differently than “approved” speech, they are removed from a paid seat on a airplane flight? …the fear of this sort of thing happening could cause many to be silenced. What a great idea. Start denying people access to flights and take away their paid/reserved seats because of something they said. Spread it all over the internet and make people afraid to disagree or speak their minds. Who came up with this brilliant plan to control the masses? Get in line and agree with us or lose your seats on the plane. She was obviously not violent, angry, she was crying, and saying “I didn’t even know he was talking to me”. There is something fishy about the whole thing. The fact that the passengers were booing tells the other part of the story.

  43. I was recently on an American Airlines flight with disgusting customer service so decided to google and found this story. I also noted that the one flight attendant (female, 40s, average height, mid-length straight blond hair) who was extremely rude did not have a name tag. I used to work in the tourist industry and it is common knowledge that the employees without name tags are often those who attract many customer complaints due to their rudeness. For this reason, they are not given name tags to avoid having to settle the complaint as the customer will be unable to adequately identify them.

  44. Flight Attendants are not our personal punching bags. Providing the passenger/customer did call him the derogatory term, yes, she should be removed since it could cause further issues later in the flight or in case of an emergency. My guess is the story has been “spun” a bit by both parties, and she probably did use the term under her breath where it was inaudible to all except the intended party, the Flight Attendant. I also assume he over reacted, but we were not there or in his shoes to determine if he acted appropriatly. Flight Attendants deal with enormous amounts of disrespect and stress during boarding from passngers who expect too much, are too busy texting, or listening with their earbuds and simply not paying attention. Regardless of the outcome, what was the Flight Attendants motive for having her removed if she did not utter the derogatory term? Legal action? We give up innumerable “rights” when we board an airplane or even enter the secure area, and agree to them by purchasing a ticket. One of those rights being to disrupt or endanger the operation of th crew or aircraft, she was disruptive if she uttered the derogatory term. Lastly, “I’m NEVER going to fly that airline again” is the rant of someone who is posturing and knows she is in the wrong.

  45. No passenger in his or her right mind is likely to use abusive language when addressing cabin crew. It is obvious that the cabin crew member in question was on a power trip.in any case use of abusive language doesn’t constitute a security risk…

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