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23 November 2009

Rude Flight Attendants Take it Out on Passengers

The following is one from the archives, but it reminds passengers that sometimes crew members can be all too human.

Airline: United
Date: 20 October 2007
Location: En Route Buenos Aires to IAD

I wish to complain in the strongest terms about the customer service that I received recently on October 20, 2007 on flight UA846 from Buenos Aires to Washington Dulles. I was seated in seat 18F. The cabin crews were serving dinner. Up to that point service had been OK but somewhat short. The staff made repeated irritated announcements about not getting up when the seatbelt light was on and reprimanded a passenger for pressing the service light when the seatbelt light was on by asking the customer to put his hand up to identify himself. I know that it is a requirement for passengers to remain seated at these times but there are ways to make these kinds of announcements in a professional and polite way.

The female cabin crew member was coming up the aisle serving dinner. I had taken one of my headphone ear pieces off so that I could hear her but I thought that she was talking to customers in front of me as she was not looking at me and I could not hear her above the cabin noise. I was shocked when I heard her reprimand someone for not paying attention to her but did not realize that she was talking to me until she walked past me without serving me (I was waiting expectantly with my table lowered). When it became clear that she was not going to serve me I asked her for a meal and she rudely replied that I should have paid attention to her. I did get my meal a few minutes later. She continued to provide unprofessional service to other customers throughout the flight. This is especially surprising in that she did not know at this point if I even spoke English. Her colleague, an older balding man with a mustache heard the interaction but did nothing about it. The man next to me in seat 18E and the two woman in the row behind me did hear it and sympathized afterwards (they planned at the time to send in complaints of their own).

These two ladies kindly identified the hostess as Laura. I heard her and another male staff member be rude to several other passengers during the flight (in full view of their colleagues). As a final insult, near the end of the flight when the crew was picking up the leftovers from breakfast the same female crew member picked up my empty box. I also had a half full cup of coffee, just as I was lifting it to my mouth she picked it out of my hands while asking if I had finished. By the time she finished the question my cup was gone!

The overall atmosphere during the flight was like a war zone, crew members against the passengers. It was such a relief to find that the staff on my next flight, to San Francisco, were normal – that is they were polite, respectful and helpful – everything that was lacking on flight 846. I plan to fly to S. America in both of the next two years, if I thought there was any chance of meeting this cabin crew again I would purchase my ticket from another company regardless of price. In 30 years of flying this is the worst customer experience I have ever experienced on an airline. Responds
This is the kind of situation that would likely be unacceptable to any passenger on that flight, even if the rudeness were directed at another person. While it may not make sense to complain to another cabin crew member, it would be a good idea to both document what you see as much as possible, and to file a complaint to the airline's customer service supervisor at your arrival airport. If that is not possible, contact some other airline representative.


  1. Try the Helena, MT. Alaska gate agents. Even worse!!!

  2. How very unfortunate that you had to endure the gratuitious obnoxiousness from a (miserable) flight attendant. I am a flight attendant as well (19 years and counting) and as I do in my daily goings on about my life's business, should I encounter a hostile service provider, I would speak to the offender, point out their behaviour and ask for a correction to the matter, if this doesn't work ask for their name and/or working position and even if you don't get it then do not further engage the flight attendant; Report the situation in full facts and unemotionally; provide witness information if possible.

  3. I agree with the flight attendant as I am also a flight attendant. You may want to mention it to the pilot(s) as you exit the plane if you really want to get their attention!

  4. I have flown many different American airline companies, and the behavior among the attendants through the years has been awful. It has nothing to do with not filling my Coke either, it has to do with rude, obnoxious and sometmes malicious acts and comments on behalf of the staff. I once had to "defend" a Japanese passenger from a rude attendant who became angry because she didn't speak English. I explained to the attendant that the woman was Japanese and that's why she couldn't answer her question. She (the attendant) then bickered back at me that she had asked her three times and became even more irritated. Hours later, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, that same attendant shouted in my ear, waking me up out of a dead sleep, asking me if it was me who had asked her for coffee (apparently she couldn't rmember who wanted coffee). I jumped up startled, and just said "no", and she replied "oh,sorry", in a very sarcastic voice. She then proceeded to walk down the aisle, waking up random passengers by shouting in their ears while they slept till she found the ONE person who had asked her for coffee. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, and it's actions like these that make airlines in America among the most criticized the world over. Anyway, I am an American English teacher working in South Korea, and my co-worker is as well. She has shared with me her unfortunate encounters with American Airline staff, and how she will not fly ANY American airline ever again. I do in fact love the US, however I feel our airline companies (specifically the flight attendants) are an embarrassment, and in desperate need of an overhaul.

  5. American Airlines is not necessarily the worst. Delta is a close competitor. I have met many rude flight attendants. Of course, the problem is, you cannot say anything back as they will call the air marshall and have you tossed off. British Airways and KLM have always been really nice people. I didn have one KLM attendant direct me back to my seat to retrieve a headset before I could exit the plane. She was pretty rude about it, but she was pretty sexy so I just overlooked it. I try to ignore flight attendants rude behaviour. I really dont see how they can stand the job. I would hate it. The travelling is fine I guess, but I think Id suffer jetlag all the time and behave worse than they do, especially during those PMS days, but I dont get PMS, so I can only speculate. I cannot understand the difference between the Eueopean carriers and the US carriers though. European carrier flight attendants are by far more courteous.

  6. on delta I ask for a bagel and cream cheese because I can't eat a big breakfast, the rude man attendant said I can't give you a bagel because that is served with breakfast. and we don't have a saucer, the man setting next to me Said give her a bagel and cheese, and he did with a saucer! I paid for a first class ticket,
    well with the help of points, I have been flying for over 20 years, and have never been treated so bad, I felt really bad and afraid to say anything, but when I got back home I did call, and I was given a voucher for my next flight not much but satisfaction.