Flight attendants are often asked for our craziest story. People always think I must have some really wacky ones, especially from Spirit. But mine sadly doesn’t even involve an irate passenger. Not even my crankiest, crotchety ones could hold a candle to this dipshit.
The day began like a lot of mine did at Spirit Airlines — in Houston. Those of us who flew out of the Chicago base felt like we lived part-time in Houston. I quite liked it — the weather was usually favorable, our hotel was cozy and there was a Taco Bell right next door. Check, check, check.
I was flying lead on this particular trip, meaning I was technically “in charge” of the rest of the cabin crew and responsible for most of the communication with the flight deck crew. To preface this tale, Spirit trains all its flight attendants to be flight lead. After your six-month probationary period, if nothing went awry, you are 100 percent qualified. At this point I had been flying for about a year.
We arrived at the gate to find the captain and first officer — they seemed friendly, chatty. We began a pretty informal briefing about the weather and this particular route — a San Pedro Sula turn (turn meaning we go there and come back). Then, the captain makes a pretty inoffensive remark to me:
“How old are you!? You don’t look old enough to be working on a plane.” The closer I get to 30, the more I welcome and delight in such talk.
But then he says something strange, something we all think is just a bizarre joke.
“You’re too young to fly lead on this trip. How long have you been here? We’ll have Troy do it.” (Names have been changed but honestly only because I forgot this dude’s.)
At this point, none of us actually thought he was serious. Then the captain circles back around to my young looks in a very strange way.
“Are you old enough to kiss your boyfriend?”
And that’s when things really started to turn for the worse. He asked what my boyfriend did for a living (he’s a videographer).
“You two must have a lot of videos together … what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Looking back, it is clear to me that I absolutely should have refused to fly with this jackwad. There’s no excuse. I’m no prude and can joke around in the raunchiest of ways, but this imbecile met me no more than FIVE MINUTES AGO. He had established no rapport. He said all this to me in front of passengers, gate agents and the entire crew. Um, sir, have you seen the headlines? Wake the fuck up. Another flight attendant pulled me aside and asked if I was uncomfortable or wanted him to say something. I, being typically non-confrontational, just wanted to get on the plane. So we did. And then shit hit the fan.
I had just gotten onboard and begun my preflight safety checks as lead when I heard from behind me:
“I thought we already discussed this. You aren’t going to fly lead.”
I was flabbergasted, as was the rest of my all-male cabin crew. The captain is the pilot in command and ultimately has the final say over anything that happens on the aircraft, but that doesn’t mean this individual isn’t held accountable for such decisions. I asked what factors contributed to this decree.
Surprise, surprise. He stuttered through something about seniority and those who have been flying for longer needing to take the reins, especially internationally. This logic would make sense if that’s how it actually worked, but at Spirit we bid for positions in seniority order and I was the most junior on the trip. The other two gentlemen chose to fly in the back, thus defaulting me into being their fearless leader. I told the captain this was the position I signed in as and was prepared to fly it, but he could not be dissuaded.
Luckily, my crew had my back. I could not have asked for a better group to tackle this shit storm with. I heard from behind me:
“IS IT BECAUSE SHE’S A WOMAN? IS IT BECAUSE SHE’S YOUNG? I have my supervisor on the phone.”
“Well if that’s your final decision, that’s fine, but just know I’m coming for your job with every tool at my disposal.”
We even unsuccessfully tried ordering a drug and alcohol test on the dude, who had the balls to question whether our training was even adequate. Um, hello, you work for the same airline I do, asshat. Are you qualified to fly the plane today? I think you’re too fucking old!
In the end, however disappointingly, I did switch positions and proceeded to be trapped in a metal tube for eight hours with a blatant harasser. The guys made sure I didn’t have to interact with the captain for the rest of the day, during which we all spent crafting our individual scathing reports to be sent to human resources, our union and direct supervisors.
Though I did follow up, I only wish I had done so more aggressively. All I ever heard was that this man was “coached and counseled.” BOOOOO.
It’s often said that seniority is everything in the airline industry, and it honestly is in terms of your quality of schedule, experiential skills and so forth. But that didn’t give this idiotic limp dick captain with 19 years of seniority the right to belittle and berate me, insult my intelligence, or question the quality of the airline’s training for that matter.
He may not have been fired or sent to sensitivity training, but ohhhh I do believe in karma — and that’s a beautiful thing.
The experience strengthened my backbone and made me completely unafraid to stand up for myself. Rest assured that if something similar happens to me or a fellow crewmember again, they’ll soon realize they messed with the wrong “kiddo.”