Watch Flight Attendant Threaten Passenger With Arrest After Not Getting Meal Choice

@RaRaNath tweets his experience in first class on American Airlines yesterday flying from Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic to Miami.

It’s a 2-hour, 900 mile flight with meal service up front. The customer didn’t get his first choice of meal, didn’t understand why, and apparently took it personally.

First class customers can pre-order their meal choice up to 24 hours in advance of the flight. If they’re not booked in first or don’t pre-order then with no change in time zones on the flight standard meal order is to take customer preferences on a Northbound flight from the back of the cabin forward.

Whether or not the flight attendant followed the proper procedure in taking meal orders, there weren’t enough pasta dishes onboard for everyone that wanted one.

Sometimes a customer’s first choice isn’t available. That’s true on any airline (although some carriers over-provision more than others). Etihad has run out of biryani on me several times.

A customer may not understand this. The passenger likely wasn’t denied their first choice of meal because of age.

It seems to me to be part of the flight attendant’s job to explain it calmly and ideally patiently. I’ve seen plenty of angry customers not get their meal choice, but I’ve never seen that escalate to threats of law enforcement.

I would emphasize that we don’t know exactly what transpired before this video. We have only the passenger’s perspective.

We don’t know how this appeared to the flight attendant at the time. Perhaps the passenger was less calm and collected than he seems in his after-the-fact tweets (although he seems calm in the video, that could be intentional).

Still in this video it’s the flight attendant:

  • telling the customer to ‘shut up’
  • putting his finger in the customer’s face
  • threatening the customer with arrest

That seems highly inappropriate even in the absense of broader context for the incident.

And I think we can all agree, an entree salad as a second choice is perfectly fine and not worth going to prison over.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Obviously I wasn’t there so I can’t know for sure but I have seen in other cases people being irrational and then they pull out their phones to record and all of a sudden have perfect composure. That may or may not be the case but when people complain and show their video of “what happened” most of the time it only shows very little of the story. Usually the part of the story that the person recording wants people to see.

  2. Totally unacceptable even with the partial clip posted. The flight attendant should be fired immediately. Threatening arrest when the passenger is seated in his seat is not only wrong but criminal in itself. It would be a different story if the passenger was out of his seat and confronting the flight attendant in the galley.

  3. Talk about a policeman like power trip. Shame on FA’s that all too frequently think they can dictate and threaten those customers who pay their salaries.

  4. I have had a UA flight attendant threaten to throw me off the flight (we were still at the gate) and then call the Captain to come give me a warning – all because I asked for a pair of slippers on a Business Class flight from Narita to Bangkok (this was a few years ago)!

  5. Why wasnt the crew wearing a name tag in the first place?
    Why doesnt the crew give his name? Surely a passenger has a right to write up his experience to management without being threatened for wanting to do so!
    This crew member obviously enjoyed running a Nazi Germany cabin!

  6. Mr. Ra Nath has been given too much power to vent on Twitter. That type of “freedom” has to stop. All cellphones must be off, no Internet access on plane. Life and worries much simpler then.

    Oh wait, he had 5 friends. 5 thugs. FA 100% correct in his/her actions.

  7. So, since the flight attendant did not provide his name I guess @RaRaNath will not be able to award any ‘AAPlause’ to him?

  8. The FA got it all wrong; he should have just ‘accidently’ spilled a cup of luke-warm coffee into that dickhead’s lap! Surely he has that penciled in into his AA Customer Service 101 manual?

  9. I have seen FAs go overboard before and basically threatening customers. It must be a problem with the training but i find FAs have way too much unchecked power that they can waive around on a whim and it seems like they are rarely called to account. Dont know about thos specific incident but if you are goong to threaten something as severe as an arreat there better be a legitimate basis.

  10. OMG I had this same flight attendant on a JFK to SJU flight last year. He was quite rude. I will never forget how degrading he was when asking for meal preferences.

  11. Believe me this will go in his permanent record!

    FA’s seem to increasingly go on power trips where they dare you to talk back to them. Even being politely quizzical can often cause them to escalate. I’m always unfailingly friendly to FA’s because of all I’ve gotten for it, but I see them challenge others sometimes in the most authoritarian ways.

    My suggestion is to continue documenting the behavior with cell phones, load them to YouTube and blast them out via every social channel to make them international celebrities. They’ll be recognized everywhere they go, and not for a good reason. This should soon end the behavior, just as police are having to watch their abuses because everyone is pulling out their cell phones. And judges are not accepting suppression of videoing wrongdoing, which runs afoul of first amendment and smells like coverup.

    Just be sure your own behavior is professional in demeanor and beyond reproach. You’re a photo journalist reporting a story.

  12. way too much of people trying to get their minute of fame trying to film people what an ego this passenger has

  13. There are good flight attendants and bad flight attendants and even then good ones have bad days. That said, I do find it interesting that he wasn’t wearing a name tag. Isn’t that usually part of the uniform?

  14. United, American and Delta Air waiters and waitresses are usually nasty, trashy, and they are a disgrace to this profession.
    I had the same rude guy before. He is very nasty. But %99 percent of AA crews are just trashy and disgusting.
    I was on a flight from Ecuador to Miami, just because I wanted to put my bag in the First Class closet because I was n 1A and the bins were full, the female fat Latin Mama, put her glasses down and in a very authoritative way, told me that was a Flight Attendant Closet? Oh, really? Was I born yesterday?
    She treated me like Crap for rest of the 5 hours to Miami. Of course I did not get my first choice of meals.
    On another flight on a 777 from LAX to MIA, I was downgraded from First to Business and then to an awful angled middle seat.
    The nasty Miami base Flight attendant would not let me put my bag in the center closet. I was the last Pax on and the agent was still arguing with me to go or get off the plane. The Flight attendant said the same thing, Sit down and Shut up.. this is a form of transport from A to b. Or get off the plane? I could not believe that she talked to me like that. Everyone else was shocked! There is no reason Flight Attendants that represent an airline and their job is suppose to be customer service (Which magically this job in the Us and in Europe has turned them into Sky Nazis) and they think they are police officers in the sky… Well, I asked her for her name and that is all I did.
    She said that I touched her name badge… and she started yelling and saying that I was a threat to her safety and she felt uncomfortable and violated… (WTF), Seriously? Drama queens in the sky…
    Then she told me that she was going to call the police and remove me off the plane and to my surprise I was removed for no good reason.
    My luggage ended up on the flight to Miami and guess what? My luggage was stolen?
    I am looking for a good lawyer to file a law suit against AA.
    Any good lawyers?
    Please contact me…
    And I was already seated and bucked in when the female flight attendant was pointing her finger at me and yelling in front of the whole cabin, it was all because, I asked for her name… because she said Sit down and Shut up.
    By the way, AA Flight Attendants are never professional, open tie and no name bar, means he is just Trash!
    They should take lessons from Southeast Asian carriers. We flew on Air Asia yesterday in Thailand. I love the respectful flight crew, it is a low cost carrier and they treat you 100 times better that trashy UA,AA and DL Air waiters and Waitresses…

  15. why even bother asking for his name how many people are working that cabin? flight number and description should be enough and you can take a video, you can obviously take a picture. I don’t bother interacting with FAs esp ones in the US they are all POSs not worth my time. If I have an issue with it, I shall forward my complaint after. Thus far I’ve not had to do that but, I am going to assume that it would happen at some point.

  16. @Alan you obviously have no idea how to deal with these idiots, what did you expect when you challenged her and touched her name tag. if I were you I would have either shut up from the start of left the plane. No good can come from arguing with these idiots.

  17. as a flight attendant myself, I realize there are some bad apples..heck I work with some. But I do take offense to some of you calling us idiots on here. I wasn’t there so cant judge either the f/a or pax. I will say there are some great attendants out there. After 29 years I still love my job and treat my pax as if they are guests in my home. by the way I have a college degree, so don’t label all of us as idiots, and waiters/waitresses. that’s ignorant on your part. happy flying.

  18. Most everyone in travel industry has gone little too far. This is different type of business. In the name of security, we now have FAA. They contribute in slowing the check in process down. Don’t get me wrong…we all need security. Not all FAA are efficient. Not too long ago we bailed the whole airline industry and now with economy getting better and oil prices low, most of these airline’s bottom lines have gotten better (thanks to the tax payers money).

    I travel quite a bit and never had FA related issues but this is obvious case of bad FA. You don’t point fingure like that

  19. Using “waiters/waitresses” as a pejorative is ridiculous.
    Calling someone a “Latin Mama” when trying to sounds sympathetic in a story is ridiculous.
    Consistently framing an entire collective of people as trash is ridiculous.
    @Alan I’d recommend you find a lawyer who helps polish you like Eliza Doolittle.

  20. Clearly the FA crossed the line: 3 strikes in the one (partial) exchange. On the other hand the passenger is in full show-off mode with his ‘phone at the ready. I often hear these conversations about meal choice and usually couched in DYWIA terms and an end-of-the-world problem. It’s painful to have to listen but these creeps usually make sure they are heard.
    Yesterday I missed out on the beef but it turned out the fish was very tasty. If I really cared one way or another, I would pre-book ( but have not text done so in the 15 or 20 years of its availability).

  21. Can the tables be turned in this situation?

    Ask to see the Captain or a Marshall and then tell them you’re concerned the FA is unstable and not fit to fly.

  22. Hehe the movie Anger Management is a classic example of the power trip like behavior of some FA’s

  23. Really lovely behavior of some of the commenters here (especially the guy who calls flight attendants nasty, trashy, and fat). I could say the same about the appearance and behavior of 99% of passengers, on any airline, in any class of service. All this over an exchange that was taken out of context over something so not worth arguing about–airplane food. That said, the flight attendant should never have told the passenger to “shut up.” And for the passenger with the video phone, if you felt that there was some egregious violation of airline policy that left you without your first meal choice, it’s best to complain to the airline.

  24. Video Taping or the photographing of flight crew, w/o prior permission from the crew member, is not allowed in the first place.

  25. Just to be clear but “not allowed” does not mean prohibited by law. It only means the airline has a rule against it and that rule may or may not be enforceable. As far as I know no court has ruled on this yet and it is possible, even likely, that one would hold that an airplane was a public place so the airline couldn’t enforce such a rule.

    Frankly given the numerous examples of FAs throwing people off planes a court might be persuaded that a passenger has the right to tape if only to refute claims made by the airline or its employees as to what transpired if a passenger was removed from a flight. Courts tend to try and balance rights so it would not be unreasonable that if the airline has the right to force you to leave you have the right to document what actually occurred.

    But we won’t know until someone brings a test case.

  26. I have learned that if you want to complain – ask for the FA’s name when you deplane. Also asking another FA for their name may be a way to get the information. Confronting them before/in flight gives them too much power. Or if you can’t get it, just name the flight, class of service and describe the FA to the best of your ability.

    If you got their name, you can walk by them at deplaning and say – “John” your service was abysmal and I will be filing a complaint against you. That way they have no more power to “throw you off the plane” and you get to announce to them that you know their name and will be writing a complaint.

    I have found wonderful FA’s but the bad ones really are “Nazis” who think that they have the power and authority to act with impugnity.

  27. From their looks, FA seems to be from Mexico or somewhere south and the passenger from Middle East.
    Both are douche and are asking for trouble.
    That’s why the U.S. needs the “wall” all around to keep those types out of here.

  28. @Sam. Racist much. So the FA looks to be from South of the border you say and passenger looks to be from middle east. Wow. You know maybe the indigenous people of this country should have built a wall to keep ur ancestors out of their country. Also you would have to build a very very very high wall to keep passengers and FAs out since you know planes fly over walls and all. You sir are what’s wrong with our nation ur an idiot spouting nonsense and hatred.


  30. The FA’s job involves customer contact. It’s clear he is unfit for the job. Whatever transpired before the filming began is irrelevant. His reaction was unprofessional even if the passenger was being a douche (not saying he was or wasn’t). His threat to call the police over this is yet another example of power-tripping FAs emboldened to abuse their position in the name of “security.” With that in mind, I do not blame anyone for filming FAs in case there is ever a question about what transpired. There is no expectation of privacy in an open cabin with potentially a couple hundred other people on board.

  31. Pre-ordering not always work, I did that on GRU-MIA in April, but AA decided to change a 77W with a 772 v2, I tried to select my seats when I notices the change (last minute change), but I was unable since it was under “airport control”, same response from Exc PLT CS. By the time I got to the airport, only 1 seat was left (rear-facing). After take of, the FA re-confirm my food selection, but when he came back with the card, my chicken was gone… no more chicken, even with a pre-order, pasta was gone to, so the only option that I have was that crappy chunk of meat with beer sauce (they don’t want to call it stew). At the end, I only got 5k AA miles…

  32. I believe its very unfair to judge the flight attendant when we have no clue what pushed him to that point. Everyone has a threshold of tolerance and no one is above reaching that last straw where things escalate to a point of playing that last and final card. I have been on flights when the Flight Attendant has made several request to passengers or inform them of information only for the passenger to continue pushing buttons because they can. The passenger is probably upset about something not related to what is actually transpiring and taking it out on the crew. Airline employees are human being. Demanding the flight attendant to be fired is beyond reason. Taking one side of the story is simply stating the customer is entitled to inflict as much pain as possible upon a work of any industry because you feel entiled to whatever you feel you have a right too.

  33. Airlline watress and waiters?!! If i would guess i would guess you’re the passenger every customer service employee hates to see coming. You have proven you have no respect for the person or their profession. believe its very unfair to judge the flight attendant when we have no clue what pushed him to that point. Everyone has a threshold of tolerance and no one is above reaching that last straw where things escalate to a point of playing that last and final card. I have been on flights when the Flight Attendant has made several request to passengers or inform them of information only for the passenger to continue pushing buttons because they can. The passenger is probably upset about something not related to what is actually transpiring and taking it out on the crew. Airline employees are human being. Demanding the flight attendant to be fired is beyond reason. Taking one side of the story is simply stating the customer is entitled to inflict as much pain as possible upon a work of any industry because you feel entiled to whatever you feel you have a right too.

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