Where Is the Line Between Security and Arbitrariness?
USA — July 4, 2018
Robyn Rodgers, a passenger on a recent Delta Connection flight, was "unfairly ejected" from flight 4527 after a dispute with a crew member.
“Just before take off the flight attendant rudely told me to put my phone on airplane mode. As I was swiping to it the attendant menacingly stood over me with her arms folded waiting for me to do it. I told her ‘I know how to turn on airplane mode, you don’t have to stand over me’,” Robyn said. But the flight attendant became agitated and said, "If you’re gonna act like that we can go back to the gate and you can get off."
To stop the encounter Robyn held up her phone to show the flight attendant that airplane mode was on. But, unfortunately, the incident didn't end there. The crew member left Rodgers, but then returned to inform her that the flight, which was operated by regional carrier SkyWest Airlines for Delta, would be turning back to the gate. Rodgers was also told that she would be removed from the plane.
Rodgers further explained: “Then she (the flight attendant) accused me of not turning on airplane mode after being “told to do so several times.” She only asked me once. I then asked her “What can we do to rectify this so that we can all go?” She said “You can comply” and I repeated that I had and she argued I did not. At that point the passenger sitting behind me told her that I had complied and he witnessed me doing so. She then threatened to kick him off of the flight as well. A Latina woman two rows ahead politely asked the flight attendant to sit down so that we could fly and the attendant snapped at her.”
So the plane returned to the gate, a security officer boarded, and the flight attendant directed him to take Rodgers, a Latina woman, off of the flight. Rodgers was removed from the flight, along with all those who had spoken up in defense of her.
“Subsequently 4 adults and a little boy were ejected permanently from the flight and stranded in Indiana with no place to stay as Delta Connection refused to put any of them, including the man with the child, in a hotel. That was the last flight out,” Robyn Rodgers said.
A partial video of the encounter – which some believe was racially motivated – can be seen on Rodgers’ Instagram account.
A spokesman for SkyWest issued an official statement on the incident saying, “We take all allegations of discrimination seriously and are reviewing reports from SkyWest Flight 4527 operating as Delta Connection. We are disappointed that our customers had this experience and are working with our partner Delta to follow up directly with the customers involved.”
The official declaration of "disappointment" is very encouraging. But the fact of the matter is that the incident is cause for concern for all passengers. It means that it's possible for you to be kicked off a flight if a flight attendant decides that he or she doesn't quite like the way you look or something equally as arbitrary. It doesn't matter how many of your fellow passengers come to your defense and refute the flight attendant's story, either. In fact they might be kicked off, right alongside you, for the crime of contradicting a crew member. And then you all have to figure out where and how you're going to spend the night, at your own expense.
Of course some may say that the flight attendant had cause to be so agitated, but Rodgers knew all electronic equipment needed to be turned off or in flight mode while flying for the sake of everyone's safety. She wasn't trying to do anything else.
However below is another story told by Zach Honig, editor-at-large of The Points Guy. It highlights a significant reduction of responsibility on the one hand, and increasing disregard for passengers’ needs on the other.
There is an increasing tendency, particularly amongst the younger members of flight crews, who are granted a great deal of power in the name of security, to not regard the safety and comfort of passengers as their first obligation.
“There appears to be an epidemic among young flight attendants on United Airlines flights: a tendency to wear earbuds or Bluetooth headpieces strung around their necks in order to have instant access to their own music and entertainment during service breaks,” Zach said.
When Zach Honig boarded his business class United Airlines flight, all he wanted was an “Old Fashioned”.
On his blog, The Points Guy, he wrote, “The airline recently launched the menu item as a featured drink – but apparently some of the flight attendants didn’t pay attention.” Honig was told the drinks don’t exist on the flight, nevertheless he insisted until he got one. Then he was told that there were no more stocked on the flight (until he got another one).
Honig also learned that the candied orange peels that are meant to go with the beverage were actually kept by the crew for themselves. He spied one of the flight attendants eating them after he had been told that there really weren’t any on board.
According to Honig, one of the worst parts of the incident, though, is that the flight attendant was wearing headphones the whole time, strung around his neck. Apparently this uniform “enhancement” has recently gained popularity with the airline’s staff.
“I’ve seen this myself on flights,” an anonymous crewmember said. “Flight attendants wearing Bluetooth headsets around their neck. It’s usually younger ones. Must be a generational thing.”
The reasoning behind it appears to be that the flight attendants want to have instant access to their own music and entertainment during service breaks. United has tried to end the practice but hasn’t had any luck so far.
“Those uniform compliance checks the company wanted to do don’t really seem to be having much effect, eh?” said another anonymous crewmember.
Maybe deplaning such crew members might help passengers feel calm and safe.