This news probably won’t come as much of a surprise to any flight attendant anywhere in the world – the vast majority of flight attendants polled by the Flight Attendant Association of Australia (FAAA) have been verbally abused by passengers because they made simple safety-related requests. According to the union, 97.5 per cent of cabin crew had been the victim of passenger abuse and a similar number said the abuse was happening more often.
Around 900 crew members were polled over the course of just 12-days, with many saying passengers are reacting badly to simple requests like removing USB charging cords, stowing tray tables and raising window blinds – all of which flight attendants are legally duty-bound to enforce for the safety of everyone on board.
“Crew are getting abused for doing their jobs,” claimed Teri O’Toole from the FAAA. “It appears passengers are not understanding that crew are giving directions for safety reasons to protect both passengers and crew.”
While rules can vary from country to country and airline to airline, you can generally be assured that flight attendants aren’t telling you to do something for a power trip. Ignoring these important safety points could result in a flight attendant being disciplined for failing to do their job properly.
“Cabin crew are highly trained safety professionals who run towards the fire in an emergency. Even when cabin crew are sitting down during takeoff, they are running through their safety procedures in their mind, considering scenarios and what their actions would be in an emergency. They do this for the safety of everyone on board.”
According to O’Toole tension over the thorny issue of cabin baggage is also on the rise – again, that’s not a huge surprise. A simple change by Qantas in March to allow passengers to bring more baggage into the cabin with them has caused problems on a number of flights, especially business heavy flights.
Qantas and the FAAA made it clear when the changes were introduced that cabin crew would not be expected to lift bags or help shift luggage around in the overhead bins – which again, is causing some passengers to lose their temper because their hand luggage has to be gate checked.
It’s probably important to mention that the vast majority of airlines officially ban their crew from lifting hand luggage into overhead lockers for passengers because the risk of injury and legal action is very real. Unfortunately, pressure is placed on flight attendants to do exactly that.
According to The Australian, a spokesperson for Qantas said of the report: “any verbal or physical abuse that’s directed to our team members or other customers will not be tolerated.” A statement from Virgin Australia read: “When a team member encounters a disruptive passenger they are provided with the necessary support and assistance afterwards.”
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.