How could flight attendants ignore a woman trying to save her husband?
A woman receives a text from her husband, saying he’s going to kill himself. Desperate to respond, she tries to call him — but she’s on a plane, and about to take off. And as she is holding her phone, a flight attendant won’t let her place the call. By the time she can notify the police, it’s too late.
That’s what Karen Momsen-Evers says happened to her on a recent flight. Reportedly, she tried to tell the flight attendant what was going on.
Now, I don’t know what she said, or how she said it, because I wasn’t there. I also don’t know at what point during the takeoff process the conversation took place.
Momsen-Evers said the flight attendant slapped down her phone and told her the FAA requires cellphones to be in airplane mode for takeoff and landing. But that phone call that she couldn’t make could have saved her husband’s life, she says. Now people want to know how the flight attendant could have been so heartless.
I don’t know the answer to that question. What I do know is this: Boarding is the most hectic time during a flight.
People are so anxious to get on the plane, they start crowding around the gate before the agent can call the first group of passengers to board. The closet fills up quickly. In no time at all, we (the flight attendants) are scrambling around trying to make room for wheelchairs, wedding dresses and guitars. Things get chaotic, fast.
She Said on Twitter: “That’s the thing, some passengers act like everything is an emergency. They go crazy over nothing. Like, not having wifi. Checking a bag.”
There’s a service animal in the bulkhead row. The passenger seated next to it is allergic to dogs. A mom and her 4-year-old aren’t seated together. Somebody lost his cellphone. Someone else left her laptop at security. Another passenger is asking for water so they can take a pill. …
The pressure is on to get planes out on time. When there’s a delay, someone has to take the blame. Agents point fingers at flight attendants for not helping to rearrange the bins, flight attendants blame agents for not checking bags. One too many delays could cost an agent his job, a flight attendant an uncomfortable trip to the airport on her day off to discuss what went wrong with her supervisor.
That’s why we make those annoying announcements begging passengers to step into their row to let others go by during boarding. It’s why we constantly remind passengers their bags fit into the bins wheels first, and why we ask people to stow their smaller items under the seat in front of them.
Time is ticking. We have to go.
She said on Twitter: “Unless it’s an emergency, flight attendants can’t contact the pilots from the time we back away from the gate until we reach 10,000 feet.”
After the plane backs away from the gate, we play the safety video. At this point, flight attendants are only allowed to be up for safety reasons. If the FAA finds we’re doing something not related to safety, they can fine us thousands of dollars — we pay that fine, not the airline. Normally we have only a few minutes to check each row for compliance before we have to take our seats. People are still on their phones. Tray tables are down. Bags aren’t under the seat.
Passengers complain we’re rude. If we seem short, it’s probably because we only have a few minutes to get everything done before we’re up in the air. If we seem short, it’s probably because we only have a few minutes to get everything done before we’re up in the air. One time I had to sprint to first class with a cat because its carrier didn’t fit under the seat. Sometimes I don’t even make it all the way to the front or back of the aircraft to check every passenger because the runway is short and we’re next in line to take off.
After a flight backs away from the gate, we’re not allowed to contact the cockpit until we reach 10,000 feet. This way the pilots can concentrate on what’s most important, flying the plane. Takeoff and landing is the most critical phase in flight. If there’s an emergency, we’re allowed to break sterile cockpit to talk to the pilots — but it has to be an emergency.
She said on Twitter:We can only break “sterile cockpit” if there’s an emergency. But it has to be an emergency. A real emergency.
I have passengers yelling at me all the time over nothing: Reclined seats, broken reading lights, running out of chicken in first class. On my last flight somebody accused us of fraud because the Wi-fi wasn’t working. He had work to do. “Don’t you realize how important it is to be able to work in flight?!” That’s why he bought a seat on my airline, not another airline. On and on it went, for three hours.
I could tell you a million stories like that one, but the point is we deal with a lot. I know this is no excuse for what happened in this case, but what I’m saying is everyone has an issue and they typically make a bigger deal out of it than it usually is.
What could this passenger have done? That’s what people keep asking me. I keep wondering if this was a communication issue. Did she make it clear what was happening at home? Did the flight attendant pay attention to what she was saying? Did she ask to speak to another flight attendant? Did she demand to get off the plane? If that didn’t work, she could have stood up and refused to keep her seatbelt on. That would have sent the plane back to the gate.
Would authorities have met the flight back at the gate? Possibly. Or maybe the crew would have stopped what they were doing to listen, really listen to her. Maybe they would have realized this wasn’t just a text message but a life or death situation. In other words, an emergency.
That’s the key word here: emergency. Maybe then the flight attendants wouldn’t have been afraid to break sterile cockpit to let the captain know they needed to go back to the gate and delay the flight.
I realize some people might be afraid to stand up to the crew for fear of not following crew orders and being arrested. But listen: The only way you’re going to get in trouble is if your emergency isn’t really an emergency. This was clearly an emergency.
I’m not taking sides. I just want people to understand how this could have happened. Because if we know why it might have happened, hopefully we can stop it from happening again.