Remember when flying used to be civilised? When gentlemen wore suits and the ladies dressed up in their very best frocks. Dinner dished out, silver service style and everyone was on their very best behaviour? No, nor do we. Maybe those times never really existed the way we remember.
Whatever the case, nowadays our newsfeeds are full of passengers behaving badly. Whether they’re fighting one another, practising yoga in the aisles or sticking their bare feet in places you definitely don’t want a strangers foot, it seems like passengers are becoming more feral by the day.
Luckily, our flight attendants have come accustomed to policing the way their passengers behave. Normally its just minor inconveniences they get involved in – say, settling disputes over who actually ‘owns’ the space in the overhead locker or whether someone has had a few too many alcoholic beverages.
Occasionally they have to wade into slightly more ‘sensitive’ matters – what passengers can and can’t wear on a plane for example. Or what language is or isn’t acceptable and when passengers should or shouldn’t be forcibly removed from a flight.
It seems like between performing safety-related duties and carrying out the onboard service, flight attendants are now becoming arbiters of etiquette and appropriate behaviour. Unfortunately, we’re learning that more often than not, flight attendants are making the rules up on the spot.
Take the incident that occurred on a Delta Air Lines flight from Philidaphia to Atlanta a few of days ago. In a tear-jerker of a YouTube video, Dr Pamela Gaudry, a passenger onboard the flight tells the story of a flight attendant who definitely went too far in enforcing what she saw as ‘acceptable’ behaviour.
It turns out that Gaudry and the other passengers on the Delta flight learnt that the body of fallen Green Beret soldier Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright being was transported on the flight. The Captain made an announcement shortly before landing asking all the passengers to remain seated when the flight arrived in Atlanta so that an Honor Guard could meet the plane.
After the announcement, Guadry describes having a “spontaneous” and “neat” idea to sing the National Anthem as a mark of respect to the deceased soldier. Guadry says she went seat-by-seat asking whether other passengers were comfortable with the idea and would join her in singing the Stars and Stripes.
— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) October 19, 2017
— Ana Cabrera (@AnaCabrera) October 15, 2017
Most passengers were said to be “thrilled” with the idea but it looks like the plan didn’t go down quite so well with one flight attendant who claimed it was “against company policy”. When challenged, the flight attendant again said Guadry and the other passengers “cannot sing the National Anthem.”
By way of an explanation, the flight attendant claimed several passengers who were “from other countries”, weren’t uncomfortable with the National Anthem being sung.
Sadly, it sounds like the Delta flight attendant wasn’t quoting company policy at all. When Gaudry contacted Delta, a company spokesperson is quoting as saying the staffer made “some bad decisions in trying to make this situation go away.” Delta is said to be introducing training to ensure a similar incident doesn’t occur in the future.
We get it – allowing passengers to do whatever they want on a plane isn’t the answer. On occasion, flight attendants really do need to step in and say what is and what isn’t allowed. But on so many other occasions, flight attendants need to really think whether their intervention will actually help the situation or aggravate it even further.
We don’t know whether the member of Delta staff in this incident was acting alone or had discussed her concerns with colleagues. Perhaps if she had asked her peers, this situation would have been avoided. Whatever the case, mediation would no doubt of been a better solution – oh, and not making up fake company policies.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.