Braille Monitor                                                                           November 1986


Aireline Behavior
Liquor, Incompetence, and
Emotional Tantrums

by John W.Smith

We flew on USAir from Philadelphia to Kansas City, with a change in planes in Pittsburgh, Friday, June 27th. Despite our fears of arriving at the airport later than desired, we discovered our flight from Philadelphia would be delayed an hour due to weather out West. They did tell us at the desk at the gate that they had no seats for us, though we'd had reservations in for a month. Eventually, since there were more nonsmokers than smokers, they made the entire plane non-smoking and we were issued seats soon afterward. They said that it was a federal regulation to declare a flight non-smoking if the majority of passengers want non-smoking seats. I was tempted to ask their definition of "federal regulation." Our flight to Pittsburgh was uneventful otherwise.

Again, we experienced weather delays of about an hour and a half in Pittsburgh. We sat on the plane part of that time. The Blumes from New Jersey, Connie Wood, and Jim Sofka were also on board. There may have been other conventioners from New York. Some were preboarded with their dogs, and the Blumes were asked to hand in their tickets to be reassigned bulkhead seats but declined and apparently were not hassled during the flight. The same was not true for me.

As I've often done when flying, I placed my cane in my seat, between Carol and me, and strapped in securely by my seatbelt. A stewardess came by objecting to this and ordered me to put it in the overhead compartment. Carol and I both said it was okay where it was. She sad if I would not comply she would get the captain. I kept quiet. She said she would get the captain. Soon, another stewardess came back, apparently accompanied by an official. Upon talking with her in the presence of the first stewardess, I decided to place my cane on the other side of Carol, secure by the window. The first stewardess was still upset and told me not to ask her for anything during the flight. She left and the second stewardess expressed some dismay, having only met the first stewardess five hours before and not knowing what to do with her. I was content things worked out as they did.

In ten to fifteen minutes, while we still waited due to a weather delay, the first stewardess came back to apologize. With her apology she admitted she'd had a long, stressful day and that she had the safety of 110 other passengers to consider first. We had no special privileges and Carol was not trained in safety as she was. Carol had defended me in our earlier hassle. In fact, when this stewardess first came back she thought the cane might have belonged to Carol until I straightened her out. In any event, I was content to let things rest despite her hostilities. However, when a man across the aisle tried to get her attention by touching her she scolded him for touching her, saying not to ever do that again, and that he, too, should not ask for anything from her on the flight. She then stormed to the back of the plane. The other two stewardesses eventually came back separately to make sure all was okay and to learn what happened. The first stewardess, while still in confrontation with us, refused to give her name or flight employee number claiming it was nobody's business and that we had no right to know. The second, kindly stewardess also refused to give any information, including her name, urging us to let sleeping dogs lie. We assured her that she, herself, was in no trouble. By the way, this was flight 347 from Pittsburgh to Kansas City.

During the delays, the stewardess served free drinks and folks in the back got pretty well lit before take-off. A party atmosphere developed and passengers got friendlier to one another. Soon the first hostile stewardess stamped to the front of the plane with baggage. The plane began moving and passengers cheered, only to be told by the captain on the PA system that another flight attendant was coming on board in about forty-five minutes. He apologized for the inconvenience. The friendly stewardess was reluctant to say anything, except we overheard her say to a row further back that the first lady needed help. Soon the other stewardess was gone. When the replacement came we had to wait ten more minutes for the ice man, since we had used the first supply. The stewardesses were asking how our day had been in light of the hostile stewardess' mention of a stressful day.

Finally we took off--three hours later than scheduled. The flight went without incident. The senior stewardess did announce that their names were Freda (or Rita, I'm not sure which), Trixie, and our replacement was Myra. After all that, when we landed, several passengers were without part of their baggage. We were missing a garmet bag which arrived late Saturday night. Something in me just knew it would happen. I've never lost luggage until then. We were glad when it was all over, especially since we kept Carol's parents waiting at the airport three and a half hours. We arrived at approximately midnight.

As for our flight back, we went on Ozark airlines. We discovered upon sitting down that we were in an exit row--row 14, seats A and B. Carol sat by the window and I had my cane between us strapped in by the seat belt. We were flying to St. Louis to change planes. Despite tense feelings, absolutely nothing out of the ordinary happened. No one approached us about my cane or the fact that we were in an exit row. When we were in the air after takeoff I told Carol I dared them to try to move us then!

The remainder of our flight home went as smoothly as could be expected. We were grateful and relieved.

It's strange that such a smooth flight should happen on Ozark in light of the behavior of the Ozark official at our convention a few days before. However, we've never had any problems at all in the several times we've flown on Ozark. One just never knows what to expect next. Our flight to Kansas City was our first flight on USAir. Needless to say, we weren't impressed. It is the first time I've ever heard of a stewardess being ejected. It makes one wonder and count his blessings all at the same time.