Friday, August 13, 2010

Folk Hero?

New Post coming on Monday 23 August:

I'm afraid that I don't comprehend the "folk hero" status that a specific jetBlue flight attendant has recently acquired. Yes, the job is tough; any job dealing with the public in the service industry is difficult. Yes, the pay and benefits are less than desired and as companies tighten their belts and layoff, the job becomes even more difficult. 

Add to this flight cancellations, long delays, waiting for gates, lost luggage, missed connections, entertainment systems that don't work, failed catering, medical emergencies, unaccompanied minors, diverse personalities and individual passenger problems and it's easy to see that flight attendants, sharing space in a small tube with angry, sometimes abusive passengers have a very difficult job.

But using the PA to hurl expletives at a plane load of those passengers, opening a cabin door, activating an emergency exit slide endangering ramp personnel below and deserting your crew with a "couple of beers" across the tarmac is not worthy of praise. For an airliner to operate safely, discipline and order are mandatory. As flight attendants often say, "we're here for safety purposes." And they are, but this one abandoned his responsibilities and his shipmates.

Flight attendants get a "bum rap" from my viewpoint as a captain. In today's high security environment I sit isolated, locked in the forward most compartment in a long tube, far removed from circumstances behind me with as many as 225 fellow human beings. This is an unnatural and often anxiety filled, pressurized environment, passing through the stratosphere at 80% of the speed of sound, seven miles above the earth. I'm completely reliant upon level headed, objective, well trained flight attendants maintaining order and keeping me in the loop as to our general condition. The decisions that I make, the course of action that I follow are often predicated upon information that I acquire from my flight attendants. They are my eyes and ears in the passenger cabin and play a significant role in the course of events throughout the entire flight.

A crew member who abandons his crew, leaves the aircraft and its human content more vulnerable should a crisis arise and deprives his captain of his input and skill in an emergency is not someone with whom I'd choose to fly. My admiration goes to those flight attendants who do the job day in and day out with little to no fanfare. Those whom my crew, our passengers and I can rely upon at all times. This covers just about every flight attendant that I've flown with over the last 35 years.

Thanks for a job well done and making this captains decision making process a little easier.


  1. There is an element of this that a lot of people can empathize with.

    A lot of people are required to tolerate poor behavior from customers, fellow employees or supervisors. Most take it in stride, smile and continue with the mission. Occasionally, someones capacity for tolerance is exceeded and an event like this occurs.

    If the media accounts are completely accurate, (highly unlikely) the guy had other issues and this passenger's blatant disrespect tossed him over the edge.

    You have to admit, nothing says "I've had enough" more than tossing one's bags over the side, grabbing a couple of beers then sliding the chute. It makes quite the statement.

    It also disrupted the people's lives who were planning to fly on that aircraft on that day. I am sure the repair/re-securing of that chute took some time, causing several delays throughout the day.

    The flight attendants actions were definitely unwarranted, counterproductive and improper. It's just that a lot of people can see where he was coming from.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. Captain Schmoe,

    A couple good points with regard to how others may see this, but as captains, responsible for others, our view (yours and mine) is far more restrictive and objective. From my viewpoint he put others at peril; this is not acceptable. Some people just shouldn't be in positions of responsibility, whether on a fire department or as part of an airline crew. Thanks for expressing your thoughts and nice to hear from you again.


  3. That's a point of view that really hasn't been exposed in this whole affair. We don't tend to think of it in those terms Rand - but - I'm guessing the cockpit warning lights must have lit up like a Christmas tree! I'm sure the Captain had some choice words as well!!

  4. Something funny in a movie, not at all in real life. You hit the nail on the head Capt. Rand.

  5. Mark,

    Interesting, I'd not thought of the down time, but I read a blurb today on line somewhere that the aircraft was out of service for THREE DAYS. That surprises me, I'd not have thought that it would take that long to repack, reinstall and test, but apparently it did. If they were at the gate, the pilots would have expected a variety of annunciator lights illuminated, but an emergency exit light probably caught their attention.

    Good point anonymous, it would make for a funny scene in the old TV series WINGS, but when you have your family on the airplane, the humor goes out the window fast... no pun intended!

  6. I don't understand it either. On the one hand, FA's have a difficult, responsible, professional job and deserve more credit ... on the other, this guy gets to be a "working class hero" by taking his job and shoving it? If you have a tantrum and storm off, don't expect to be taken seriously as a professional, and don't - this part I can hardly believe - expect to get your job back!

  7. Sarah,

    I couldn't agree more. Most sentiment is running against him, but the vocal few who support this behavior baffle me. Some pilot, who identifies himself as an airline pilot, he's 23, is trying to raise a defense fund, because as he expresses himself, "crew members need to stick together." Well, maybe, but standing up for this action is ludicrous. The AFA as well has offered their support which I think does nothing but diminish their credibility. We haven't heard much from jetBlue flight attendants, but I suspect that they know more than we do and are happy that he's gone.


  8. You have to admit that this story has a certain D.B. Cooper-ness to it... too bad the guy doesn't just disappear like D.B. though...

    Thanks for your take on it, it's a reality check that those championing his cause need to consider.

    Tim G in MN

  9. PS: Have you seen Jeppesen's new Hudson Miracle Approach chart?

  10. Well said. I agree. Kind of a "cop-out" to deploy the chute and leave the plane.

  11. It's unfortunate that this is just another crackpot that slipped through H.R. on the psych exam. Hopefully a rational person will view this individual with psychiatric issues and not as a hero of the day. Tha title would go to Capt. Sullenberger of flight 1549.