IT HAPPENED twice just the other day. First came the photo of a flight attendant on the jump seat with a phone in her hand, accompanied by a complaint. An hour later, a photo of another attendant sitting where a passenger thought he shouldn’t.
If your first reaction to reading these stories might be, “Good, serves ’em right!” then I’m appealing to you. Publicly posting photos of crew to complain about them is not okay. Hear me out.
Unprofessionalism and bad service are universal nerve-pluckers — I get that — and I’m not going to sit here and pretend to you that there are not some bad flight attendants out there, but let’s look at a few reasons why “complaint by public shaming” isn’t the way to go.
And please, everyone, you need to know this:
1. It’s not allowed
While we all know that taking photos in aeroplanes can be an issue of vague and conflicting information, you can usually find it clearly stated in an airline’s in-flight magazine that photographing crew members is specifically prohibited.
At my airline, we get fired for photographing a colleague in such a manner.
Airlines are unlikely to confront you on this point, but it’s a technicality that could come back to bite you if an accused crew member feels sufficiently victimised.
2. It’s just rude
Would you like to have your photo taken without your permission during some off-guard moment of your day, to be posted publicly with an accusation against which you are prohibited from defending yourself?
That’s a bit of an ambush. It also feels disproportionate. A bit like swatting a fly with a sledgehammer.
3. Is the behaviour really hurting you?
Sometimes, yes. But it’s a good question to consider before taking it to the public.
Remember the blow-up over the flight attendant taking a photo in the engine well? While I can’t speak for Spirit Airlines and their claim it was against policy, I’ve never even heard of a pilot or flight attendant who has been told such by their company.
In fact, sometimes airlines host such a photo opportunity for new crew during training!
Maybe the flight attendant is not beyond critique for her choice of timing, but did it call for contacting a news station? Absolutely not. A woman almost lost her job over nothing.
4. You might be wrong
It’s a good idea to sprinkle some humility over indignation. I’m not one of those who will say you should never complain because you definitely don’t know all of the circumstances, but consider the following example.
Recently some front-row first class passengers filmed the strange behaviour of their flight attendant as she sat on her jump seat, later sharing the video on YouTube. Indeed, she was acting strangely. From what I saw (in the video, which we had removed) something was clearly not okay.
This wasn’t a “Haha, let’s take photos and laugh at her” situation. This was a “This isn’t safe, something’s wrong, we should tell somebody now” situation — at least it should have been. There was a medical situation afoot, but no one bothered to ask themselves what was really happening because they were busy pointing fingers.
So what should you do if you encounter what you feel is a complaint-worthy situation? Complain away — just know that public shaming of people you disapprove of via surreptitious or coerced photos isn’t the way to go.
If I really can’t stop you from snapping, know that you can provide your specifics via DM or attachment to whatever conversation you have privately after getting the company’s attention. You don’t have to post them publicly. No one is implying you shouldn’t complain. I’m just asking that we think twice about how we do it.