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How not to get kicked off a plane

 Want To Know How Not To Get Kicked Off A Plane  originally appeared on 11/07/2015

Last month the New York Post ran a story about a passenger who was kicked off a flight for“no good reason.”

The “no good reason” turned out to be … well, they didn’t know. Which I suppose is how they came up with “no good reason.” In a passenger-recorded video, we don’t see what led up to the confrontation, but it probably wasn’t a “good” reason … right?

The New York Times and Yahoo Travel followed up with stories sharing tips on how not to get thrown off an airplane, as if that might to happen to you, the average traveler.

Want a tip for not getting kicked off a flight? There’s only one: Act like a decent human being.

Need another one? Mind your manners. Pretend you’re in a house of worship rather than a pub during a football game. Too difficult? Okay, what about just pretending you’re traveling with your mother?

Or better yet: Don’t even think about it because it’s not going to happen to you, the average traveler. If it does, you’re not the average traveler: Congratulations on being one of the very few passengers who get kicked off planes.

In the New York Times, a spokesman for the Los Angeles police department said: “Regardless of the cause, being ejected before take-off at LAX is not rare.” When I read that my eyes just about popped out of my head. Regardless of the cause?!? What kind of message is that for the news to give to readers?

I’ll tell you what kind of message it is: It’s the kind that gets the average traveler worried about being thrown off a plane — to generate more readers.

Forgive me for being sensitive but these kind of stories make crazy. They affect my job, and they affect how passengers feel about air travel before they even walk on a plane.

With stories like these in the news, it’s not hard to see how some people might come to the conclusion that airlines get a thrill out of kicking passengers off their planes.

You might even think flight attendants are on some sort of power trip. I hate when people accuse flight attendants of that. Seriously, let’s think about this for a moment.

Flight attendants have the power to … what? Ask you to fasten your seat belt or stow your bag? To hand you a drink? What kind of power is that?

When I think of a job with power, I think of the police. Now find me a policeman who feels power over about 150 strangers with no more than a drink cart.

If you think flight attendants are on a power trip, you must have a very comfortable life. You should be grateful I’m the one causing you so much angst — me! The one handing you a Diet Coke, the very same one whose entire job is to keep you safe from Point A to Point B.

In between, I’ll do whatever I can with the tools I’m provided to make your flight comfortable.

As a flight attendant, I don’t even get to make the choice to throw someone off the plane on my own. The captain on the flight has the final call: It’s his plane, and he decides who goes and who stays.

And from my experience working for a major carrier for 20 years, it’s a huge deal to remove a passenger from a flight.


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We’ve come a long way, baby! Or have we?

securedownloadWhy you can’t judge a flight attendant by her BMI originally appeared on on September 17, 2015

I don’t know what you do for a living, but imagine if I told you I needed your Body Mass Index, or BMI, to decide whether or not you were fit to do your job — a job you were doing every day, a job nobody had complained about.

You might say that was ridiculous. You might even call me sexist when it became clear I was measuring mostly the women, and less so the men.

That would be crazy, right?

Of course, that wouldn’t happen at your job. Why? Because we’ve come a long way, baby.

Unless, of course, you’re a flight attendant. Particularly a flight attendant in India, where about130 Air India flight attendants have been grounded or forced to retire because they were deemed unfit to fly. Unfit to fly — because their BMI was “too high.”

In case you missed it, India’s aviation authority is requiring female flight attendants to have a BMI between 18 and 22. If it’s higher than 22, the crew have a limited amount of time to bring it down — or they will no longer be able to fly. (For men, the scale is higher, with 18 to 25 considered OK.)

Now, never mind that a “healthy” BMI is considered to be between 18.5 and 24.9 for both men and women, according to several authorities. And never mind that using BMI alone to measure health has been criticized because it fails to take into account an individual’s build.

Air India claims flight attendants with a high BMI move slower, and won’t be able to react quickly enough in an evacuation: “It’s a safety issue,” an Air India spokesman told CNN. “The crew has to be fit to be able to carry out their inflight duties, including emergencies.”

But safety is not about BMI. As a flight attendant in the U.S., I go back to recurrent trainingevery year, and have to pass tests on our evacuation drills and medical procedures. If we can’t open the door or remember our commands and procedures we won’t pass.

Call me crazy, but I have a feeling some of our larger flight attendants might have an easier time dragging an unconscious passenger to an emergency door in the event of an evacuation than our teeny tiny ones — but they’re capable, too. I can still remember, when Asiana Flight 214 crash landed in San Francisco, seeing video of a petite Asiana flight attendant giving passengers piggyback rides to safety. The point is crew should be certified they can handle an emergency — not that they can fit in a specific dress size.

I can’t help but wonder if the focus on BMI is about something else entirely — a way to address another issue.


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What my flight attendant uniform taught me about confidence


I wrote What my flight attendant uniform taught me about confidence for September 10, 2015

It was like a scene out of a movie. I was in the terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport when I spotted a very attractive man standing in line at the Hudson News outside of security. We made eye contact, and he started walking towards me.

“Excuse me,” he said.

I stopped and smiled, waiting for him to ask me where the baggage claim was, or where he could find a Starbucks. I had on my flight attendant uniform, after all. But instead of asking me anything, he handed me his business card.

Vice President. Of a bank. He held out his hand and introduced himself with a firm shake. I couldn’t help but notice he was in no hurry to release my grip.

“You’re a beautiful woman. I’d love to take you to dinner.”

This is where I should probably mention something about my husband and son. Like … the fact that I have a husband and son. But they don’t matter right now. What matters is an attractive man thought I was beautiful enough to put his newspaper down and walk over and invite me to dinner. This sort of thing doesn’t normally happen to me. If I’d been single, I would have said yes. YES, YES, YES.

I walked away — take that back, it wasn’t a walk, it was a strut. A strut with a hair toss. I don’t know if I really tossed my hair, but if this had been a scene from a movie it would have been an appropriate move here.

Man, I’ve got it going on, I thought to myself as I cut the line at security, took off my blazer, kicked off my high heels and padded through the metal detector in my stocking feet.

Let the record show: I very rarely strut. I’m more of a collider — I run into things. I’m klutzy. And I’d like you to know that it had been a long time since I felt like I had it going on. A thought like that hadn’t crossed my mind in years. Oh, I think I’m attractive — I can hold my own. But I’m not walking around thinking I’m the hottest woman on Earth. Just stay with me a few minutes while I relive this moment in all its glory. Let me be so hot I caused a man at the Hudson News to put his newspaper down, step out of line, and say Hello.

Because it’s all going to come to an abrupt halt in a moment.

As I made my way past the food court and headed to the gate where my flight to Los Angeles was departing,

I must have been beaming because a few passengers’ heads turned as I passed by. I heard someone say, “Nice hair.

Now let’s back up to that morning, when I stood in my closet staring at a million different uniform pieces in several different sizes. That’s when I got a crazy idea to try on my skirt, and not just any skirt, but a skin tight pencil skirt I hadn’t worn in more than two years. Size 6. For the last few years I’d resigned myself to wearing the uniform dress, which looks more like a tent than a dress.

When I left work a size 4, and returned from maternity leave a 14, there was a lot I wanted to hide. Like my entire self.

But you just had a baby! is what you’re thinking, isn’t it? Yeah, and yet here I was two years later standing in my closet a size 10. OK, fine, a 12. A 10/12.

Size matters when you live in a society obsessed with looks, of course, and even more so when you have a job so many people consider sexy, like a flight attendant. I know times have changed and flying has changed, but for whatever reason people still expect to see sexy flight attendants when they board an airplane. Even when they’re flying to Toledo.

When the crew is unattractive, they’re disappointed — and they talk about it. Out loud.

No joke, I was more upset about being a “fat” flight attendant than I was about leaving my son at nine months to return to the not-so-friendly skies. I knew he’d be okay, he had his father. Me, the fat flight attendant? I wasn’t so sure. People can be mean.

But back to my closet. I left my apartment that morning feeling great. I’d decided to try on an old uniform skirt, a uniform skirt I hadn’t worn in years. I took a deep breath and stepped into a skirt I had no business stepping into … a skirt I had no problem pulling up … a skirt I buttoned without a hitch. And like that, I had it going on: I felt good. I felt amazing.


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Smoking flights. Smoking flight attendants. The glamorous life…

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Drunks on a plane!

3424024961_c274752fdf_mIt’s not hard to spot inebriated passengers when they walk on board and announce, “Let’s party and have some drinks!”  Those we know to keep an eye on.  It’s the quiet ones we have to worry about, the ones who ask for a cup of ice, and that’s it. That’s the red flag that there might be a little something – something hidden somewhere. 


Does it come as a surprise to learn intoxicated passengers have a tendency to turn into trouble after a few too many?  The reason they seem tipsier in the air than on the ground is because of the lower oxygen levels in the blood.  The same amount of alcohol goes a lot further at 35,000 feet. Which is why flight crew need to be able to monitor how much passengers drink, so we can cut them off before it’s too late.  While rarely a threat to the safety to the aircraft, unless of course they’re threatening to shoot the crew with a 9mm handgun like one drunken passenger did on a flight from Cuba, they do have a tendency to wreak havoc.  I’m positive this is the reason it’s against FAA regulations to board someone who appears to be intoxicated. If an airline gets caught knowingly doing so, they will be issued a fine. 


Which brings us to Kate Moss.  Can we for a moment forget she was traveling on Easy Jet or the fact that she became upset when the crew ran out of sandwiches (not salads), which was only made worse when she spotted a flight attendant eating pasta on her break.  And focus on this…


Moss called the pilot a “basic bitch” as police escorted her from the plane.


Calling a pilot a bitch, or telling them to F off (as one passenger did on one of my flights years ago), is one way to get kicked off a plane.  The Captain makes the final call when there’s a problem.  Doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.  It’s their call. The Captain’s plane. Now back to Moss.


“But she was not aggressive to anyone and was funny really, the Easy Jet crew was acting out of proportion,” a passenger said. “She was a little drunk and had a disagreement with another passenger on the flight as she was refused alcohol and then went to serve her own vodka from her cabin luggage.”


That last bit about grabbing her own vodka is probably what got her in trouble. Passengers can’t drink their own liquor in flight.  When they do, we ask them to stop.  When they don’t, we have a problem.  When we have a problem, authorities are called to meet the flight.


Some airlines will allow passengers to bring their own alcohol on board to drink, but flight attendants have to keep it in the galley and pour it for them. We’re like bartenders.  We’re responsible for what happens to passengers during and after a flight. Somebody has to be the gatekeeper. Somebody has to step up and say when enough is enough.That’s why so many airlines don’t allow passengers to drink their own booze on board, why we don’t automatically serve free drinks when there’s a delay, and why we’ll cut people off if we feel they’ve had enough. It sounds like might have happened to Kate Moss right before she went to grab her own stash.  But I don’t know.  I wasn’t there.


What I do know is airplane food isn’t worth getting upset over.  I also know it’s a huge deal for flight attendants to walk off a flight, have a passenger removed, or call the authorities to meet the plane.  Nobody wants to go in on a day off to talk to a manager about who made that call. Nobody wants to cost the airline money by taking a delay, diverting a flight, or bringing an airline bad press simply because a celebrity was involved in a story that went viral, like this one did.  Really, we do not enjoy rocking the boat – or in this case, the plane – but sometimes we have to. There’s no calling the cops or the fire department or an ambulance at 35,000 feet, which is why we always like to take care of potential problems on the ground    


4114847529_2669115f3a_m In the air it’s not always possible for a few of us to keep tabs on so many of you, so some people do squeak by. For instance, after serving a very large first class passenger not THAT many Jack and Cokes, we couldn’t stop him from coming into the galley and eating leftover shrimp tails (garbage) he picked off used passenger meal trays we were stacking back inside the carts after the dinner service. Then there was the elderly woman who drank four vodkas within an hour after takeoff.  I had no idea my coworker had just served the sweet old lady a double when she flagged me down and asked for “two of those cute little bottles.” Once we realized our mistake, it was too late. She was attempting to christen the entire coach cabin with water from the lav on her dripping hands. My all time favorite was the sharply dressed man who took a seat in the exit row after staggering onto the plane with an open container of alcohol. of all the seats the guy could sit in… I asked him to hand it over, but instead of doing as told, he guzzled it down and burped in my face. Then he wanted to argue about why he couldn’t bring his own booze on board. As I was reminding him that most businesses don’t allow open containers of liquor, he passed out, head smack against the tray table.  


Is that who you want to sit next to on a five hour flight?  Is that who you want helping you in case there’s an emergency?  The guy who used your seat back pocket as an air sick bag? The woman who locked herself in the one and only first class bathroom for three hours


Didn’t think so. 


This is where some people will suggest airlines should stop serving alcohol.  I don’t think that’s the answer.  Why punish everyone when only a few can’t handle it. Moderation is key. Plus, it takes the edge off people who are — because of delays, seat recliners, zero leg room — in great need of losing that edge. 


Some people might find it hard to believe but flight attendants aren’t afraid to cut people off. Some people assume first class gets a free pass. That’s not true.  Not even if you’re Kate Moss. But how you cut them off is important.  I try to do it as respectfully and quietly as possible to avoid any embarrassment.  But I have no problem having them handcuffed if they mistake my kindness for weakness.

Depending on our rapport, I might come right out and tell a passenger who’s had one too many that that’s it, the last one, enjoy.  Other times I might serve a passenger a glass of very little Jack with a whole lot of Coke.  Mostly Coke.  All Coke.  With maybe just a tiny bit of Jack rubbed around the rim of the glass.  Sometimes It’s just easier saying we ran out of alcohol.  But sometimes we really do run out so don’t assume we think you have a problem when we tell you that.  Another tactic is to just disappear.  Hide.  On one occasion I became the most forgetful flight attendant on earth.  “I’m so sorry I forgot your drink,” I said. Then I promised to be right back, with no intention of ever returning. Anything to keep the situation under control.  


My job is to keep the cabin calm.  The best way to do that is to ensure things don’t escalate and somebody goes off in handcuffs.   Sometimes that means I cut people off before they start calling the Captain names. 

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St. Lucia 


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Traveling to get lost helped me find myself after tragedy


I’d been in Saint Lucia less than 24 hours and already I felt antsy. It didn’t help that the resort was only 10 minutes from the airport, or that we were handed a rum punch the minute we walked into the hotel lobby. Thirty minutes after getting off the plane, I was sitting under a palm tree on a blue and white striped towel reading a book.

The resort was nice, the drinks were free. From my cushy lounge chair I could hear the waves, and see the ocean, vast and blue. Off in the distance, the land jutted out into the sea on either side of me. People were getting ready to get ready to line up at the buffet for dinner. Tacos and empanadas, I overheard somebody say. None of it helped.

I was depressed, but I don’t think anyone could tell.

I took a sip of my drink, the local beer Piton, and it reminded me of college, Pearl Jam — that song “Alive.” I felt anything but alive as I tossed the book I couldn’t get interested in aside, threw on shorts and a tank over my swimsuit, and decided to take a walk. I told my husband to watch our kid, who was splashing around in the pool

Ten months earlier, I lost a child. Not my first. There have been six altogether. Six pregnancies. Six losses. The last one was the hardest one, because I was five months along when he decided to leave this earth. One minute I was in labor, and the next minute I was being handed a list of funeral homes and crematoriums.

I had to take a year off from working as a flight attendant after that. The thought of being asked to hold a baby — or even having somebody yell at me over nothing. A broken seat light, a middle seat, running out of chicken in first class.

I went to Saint Lucia to get lost, blend in, disappear. Which wasn’t hard to do at this all-inclusive resort five minutes from the airport. But I was still restless.

Walking onto the beach, I picked a direction at random.

“Venture at your own risk,” read a wooden sign stuck in the sand. The risk being — I looked around — seaweed? Another American tourist? There was nothing else.

More than anything I wanted there to be something else, anything else, that could distract me. Something to make me forget everything I’d been through. I found tire tracks leading back to the hotel, and followed them with my eyes to a seaweed removal machine behind a cluster of palm trees. Still I hoped for more as I turned the corner and imagined signs of life: colorful cottages, half naked children, laundry flapping in the breeze.

Instead I found more of the same: Sand, seaweed, a big blue beautiful ocean and a kayak on a deserted beach. Paradise.

Disappointed, I turned around and went back to my chair.

“We’re renting a car,” I told my husband.

“How much longer do I have to feel like this?”

“How much longer do I have to feel like this?” I’d asked my mother every single day leading up to our vacation. She was the only person I could talk to about it, the only person I knew who wouldn’t worry about me simply because I wanted to talk about it, the only person I didn’t make uncomfortable just by talking about it.

She assured me the feeling would pass, and that things would get better, over time. I wasn’t so sure about that.

Time takes too much time when you’re feeling down.

It’s hard losing a baby, but dealing with people who can’t deal with you afterward is even worse. A lot of people knew I was pregnant. At three months along, I probably looked more like six months. It’s how it is for the women in my family; I come from a long line of very large pregnant women.

And so everyone knew: parents at my son’s school, parents on the soccer team, parents at the music school, parents I rarely spoke to but saw on a daily basis. Then, all of a sudden, I was clearly no longer pregnant.

Some parents seemed confused and asked me about my weight loss. Others congratulated me and wanted to know what I’d named the baby. Then there were the majority of people who just kept their distance. No eye contact, no questions — they may as well have been running away. My deflated belly had become my scarlet letter.

I couldn’t wait to get away from it all in Saint Lucia.


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