USA Today has the story of a New York state employee who has been placed on leave after name-dropping the governor as she had a meltdown on a Delta flight earlier this month. This incident was captured on video and posted to Facebook, and has over 1.5 million views. The passenger with the bad attitude, Susan Peirez, is a program director at the Council of the Arts.

The woman was acting like a complete asshat in the video, as she threw a tantrum for being seated near an infant on the short flight from New York JFK to Syracuse. The woman said she “works for the governor,” and asked the flight attendant for her name. The flight attendant provided her name and employee number, and the lady responded by saying “thanks, Tabitha,” and followed that up by saying “you may not have a job tomorrow.”

According to the woman who took the video, here’s what led up to this incident:

Rundell said the woman was the last to board the plane and used a series of expletives when realizing her seat was in the back of the aircraft, leading Rundell to twice ask the woman not to use coarse language around her son.

The second time, the woman heard her and told her to shut up, according to Rundell, a Mary Kay consultant and cheerleading coach. “I started recording right after that,” she said.

Here’s the video:

Obviously this lady was acting like a complete moron, and trying to name drop the governor and suggest the flight attendant would be out of a job is hilarious on so many levels. But there’s something else I find interesting about this situation.

The flight attendant in the video keeps her calm, and provides her name when asked. What’s interesting is what pushes the flight attendant over the edge:

“Thanks, Tabitha, you may not have a job tomorrow.”
“I want this lady off my plane.”
“I apologize, please, I apologize, I apologize. I’ll be quiet now please. I’m sorry, I was really stressed out. Please Tabitha. Thank you.”

What should get someone kicked off a plane?

Post-9/11 airline employees have a lot more authority to kick people off planes. We see this more in the US than anywhere, where we see gate agents call the police on people, flight attendants kick people off planes, and more. The intent is that if someone poses a threat to a flight then they should be kicked off. But over time this has certainly changed, and many people are kicked off planes for less drastic reasons.

The above situation is an interesting one, because I have to wonder whether it was really necessary to kick the woman off the plane:

  • Did the passenger have a ridiculously bad attitude, and was she cranky? Hell yes.
  • Did she pose a risk to the flight? I think not, and I actually think she was instantly more remorseful than I’ve otherwise seen before in such a video.

Essentially the passenger was threatening to file a complaint against the flight attendant, since that’s really the only way you can interpret “you may not have a job tomorrow” (as ridiculous as the threat is). I don’t think complaining about (perceived) bad service is grounds to get someone kicked off a plane.

Again, let me acknowledge that this passenger was acting like a fool, and her cumulative behavior was awful. Usually I think it’s pretty black and white as to whether a passenger deserves to be kicked off a plane. If at any point they threaten another passenger or a crew member with violence, or if they repeatedly refuse to follow safety-oriented crewmember instructions, I think they should be kicked off.

But should a bad attitude be grounds to kick someone off a flight? I’m not sure, and I’m curious what you guys think.