Alec Baldwin vs the Flight Attendant

By | December 11, 2011

Unless you’ve been out of touch, you probably heard about Alec Baldwin’s behavior onboard an American Airlines flight. We’ve been thinking about this for a few days now. By most accounts, Alec Baldwin was onboard an American Airlines flight. The Flight Attendants had instructed passengers to discontinue the use of portable electronics. Mr. Baldwin did not cooperate with this instruction, may have continued his game of Words with Friends, became difficult when confronted, and was removed from the flight.

English: DFW American Airlines Departure

Image via Wikipedia

American issued a statement on their Facebook page, “Since an extremely vocal customer has publicly identified himself as being removed from an American Airlines flight on Tuesday, Dec. 6, we have elected to provide the actual facts of the matter as well as the FAA regulations which American, and all airlines, must enforce. Cell phones and electronic devices are allowed to be used while the aircraft is at the gate and the door is open for boarding. When the door is closed for departure and the seat belt light is turned on, all cell phones and electronic devices must be turned off for taxi-out and take-off. This passenger declined to turn off his cell phone when asked to do so at the appropriate time. The passenger ultimately stood up (with the seat belt light still on for departure) and took his phone into the plane’s lavatory. He slammed the lavatory door so hard, the cockpit crew heard it and became alarmed, even with the cockpit door closed and locked. They immediately contacted the cabin crew to check on the situation. The passenger was extremely rude to the crew, calling them inappropriate names and using offensive language. Given the facts above, the passenger was removed from the flight and denied boarding.

This contrasts sharply with Alec Baldwin’s version of events, where he claims what he got out of this was “to keep my phone off when the 1950’s gym teacher is on duty,” and his claim that 9/11 gave airlines an excuse to make the travel experience as inelegant as possible.

The union representing American Airlines flight attendants wants the actor banned from the airline for life, and they want the FAA to fine him for his behavior. We tend to side with them on this matter. In reading comment after comment on this issue, they were divided into people who think Alec Baldwin was wrong, and people who think Flight Attendants are abusive with their power.

Are there people who work as flight attendants who act inappropriately? Certainly. There are people who act in unprofessional manners in every job and walk of life. But for the most part, flight attendants are doing their job. Their primary duty is to the safety of the passengers. Serving drinks and providing service is a secondary duty, but one they should not ignore either. More often than not, when flying, we see people getting up, walking around, and going to the lavatory when the fasten seatbelt sign is on, which is a clear violation of safety measures, even more so than the mobile device issue.

For the most part, flight attendants ignore it to avoid confrontation. But they should be protecting passengers. Yet, if they do, they will bear the brunt of abuse, and passengers will claim it is justified. We were on a flight recently where we were pleased that the flight attendant made announcements reminding people that there was turbulence and they should not be heading to the lavatory.

As Greg Principato pointed out on his blog, “I often notice the rare mis-behaving passenger acts as if either he or she thinks they are the only person on the flight, or they act as if they are somehow standing up for the rest of us.” This is merely a case of a man who could have complied with instructions and when asked to, became abusive to those doing their job. It was not a case of flight attendants abusing their power. Flight attendants abusing their power would be them not enforcing FAA regulations that all passengers must comply with.

Baldwin even succeeded in involving Greyhound bus. Greyhound issued an open letter to Baldwin, after his disparaging remarks about American Airlines compared them to the bus company. Showing they at least had some good humor about the situation, they pointed out he may keep his portable electronics on during his entire bus trip, they now offer leather seats and free wifi, and thus he could comfortably play Words with Friends without interruption. They even offered to play Words with Friends with him on their Facebook page.

The airline experience may have become less glamorous, and airlines certainly could stand improvement. But that is no excuse for this sort of behavior. And we’re equally disappointed in those who chose to side with Baldwin and unfairly blame the personnel. Even if someone was singling him out, use of one’s cell phone is not grounds to behave this way, or use your fame as a bully pulpit to insult an entire group of people.