AA Flight Attendant Threatens To Kick First Class Passenger Off Plane After He Asked For Irish Coffee

AA Flight Attendant

Courtesy: American Airlines

AA Flight Attendant Threatens To Kick First Class Passenger Off Plane After He Asked For Irish Coffee

A poster over on FlyerTalk gave a detailed account on an experience witnessed last week on a American Airlines Flight 5896 to Phoenix, Arizona.

According to the passenger who wrote the account, the issue began when a first class passenger asked for an Irish coffee for his pre-departure beverage.  The flight attendant initially said there would be a delay because she had to heat up the coffee, so it would be a couple of minutes.  The flight attendant returned and said she couldn’t serve the coffee.

The passenger (politely, according to the poster) asked “Why?”

Things Escalate

It seems the passenger’s inquiry made the flight attendant unhappy.  The poster says this was the back and forth after the passenger asked why he couldn’t get an Irish coffee:

She came unglued. voice raised – “Because the FAA won’t let us serve hot beverages on the ground. Are you going to have a problem with that?” Politely he responded, “No, Are you having a good day?” She responded with something along the lines of, “I have to get everyone boarded, and you aren’t my priority. You are holding up boarding. Do you think I’m being combative or simply trying to do my assigned job?” He continued to backpedal, asking if she was having a good day and apologizing.

The flight attendant said, “If you don’t settle down, I’ll have you taken care of. I’m going to speak to the captain now.”  The flight attendant went to the cockpit for about five minutes and returned, asking the passenger, “Are you going to cause problems? if you are, I’ll have the captain come back and take care of you.”

The man, who reportedly still tried to deescalate the situation, said there was no problem.  The flight attendant continued “brow beating[ing]” the man.  At this point, the poster’s wife became involved and said, “You appear to be a little combative. Is there a problem?”  The flight attendant then included the poster-s wife in the tirade.

“Let’s Take This Outside”

The flight attendant returned to the captain and the captain said, “Let’s take this outside.”  The passengers went outside and spoke with the ground supervisor for a little while.  Then the ground supervisor conferred with the two passengers and the poster’s wife to ensure there wasn’t going to be a problem.  They all said there wasn’t a problem and that it was all one-sided.  The flight closed up and they departed.  The poster also said the flight attendant covered her name badge, likely to avoid one of the passengers getting her name.


Keep in mind this is only one side of the story and the flight attendant’s side cannot be heard.  American Airlines commented to Inc. they were looking into the matter and contacting the passengers involved.  

I don’t find this story particularly unbelievable.  Let’s first say that being a flight attendant isn’t always easy.  They deal with a lot, sometimes work long hours, and have to deal with some pretty hard-headed people.  It’s totally understandable that a flight attendant can have a bad day.  We’ve all been there.  But it’s important to remember — and this is a point often lost — is that they are in the customer service business.

I know, I know, some travelers will tell you they’re not.  Some will tell you they’re there merely for safety, which is why it’s not unheard of for flight attendants to act like full-on law enforcement under some circumstances.  But I think that’s cutting flight attendants too much slack for poor behavior.  I’ve worked in customer service.  I can tell you, if I spoke to a customer like that while doing those jobs, I would have been fired within days. 

Safety is definitely an important part of the flight attendant’s job.  But so is service.  Perhaps the passenger could have responded differently to the initial denial.  I don’t know, I wasn’t there.  But even if his response came across as annoyed, shouldn’t a flight attendant be the person to deescalate the situation?  Shouldn’t somebody whose going to be responsible for remaining calm and evacuating the plane in an emergency be a person who can take a stressful situation and remain calm?

Bottom Line

The point here is a story like this is believable because I’ve seen incidents like this.  I’ve seen gate agents get nasty with people.  I’ve seen flight attendants get annoyed over little things.  That naturally may happen because people are, after all, human.  But airlines should always push to do better and improve the customer service experience.  Unfortunately, a lot of times these incidents with flight attendants involve the “safety” excuse, which has become a catchall defense for poor customer service.

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