A Passenger on an American Airlines Flight Asked For an Irish Coffee. Then, a Horrific Escalation

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Anyone can have a bad day.

How bad, though, does it have to be to justify what appears to have happened on an American Airlines flight from Long Beach to Phoenix last weekend?

The story is told by one of the passengers, who presented a detailed account on the FlyerTalk forums.

It all began, he says, with a First Class passenger asking for an Irish coffee while the plane was still on the ground.

At first, it seemed as if the Flight Attendant — the flight was operated by Mesa Airlines under the American Eagle banner — would oblige. Then she came back and said she couldn’t, after all.

When asked why — apparently politely — things began to take a detour.

Said the onlooking passenger: 

She came unglued. Voice raised, ‘Because the FAA won’t let us serve hot beverages on the ground. Are you going to have a problem with that?’ Politely he responded, ‘No, Are you having a good day?’ She responded with something along the lines of, ‘I have to get everyone boarded, and you aren’t my priority. You are holding up boarding. Do you think I’m being combative or simply trying to do my assigned job?’

I fear, should this story be accurately told, that many would think there’s a touch of combativeness going on here.

Next, it seems, the passenger kept trying to be conciliatory while the Flight Attendant reached a new altitude of anger.

Until, the onlooking passenger says, the Flight Attendant declared: 

If you don’t settle down, I’ll have you taken care of. I’m going to speak to the captain now.

Ah, that sweet moment when a Flight Attendant becomes law enforcement.

Soon, the infamous line emerged: 

Are you going to cause problems? if you are, I’ll have the captain come back and take care of you.

This would be care in the not-so-caring sense.

You’ll be stunned into choosing boats for your next vacation when I tell you that the onlooker’s wife tried to intervene. 

It didn’t go well.

The captain arrived and asked for things to be “taken outside.” Which, at least in the bars I occasionally visit, means fisticuffs.

Ultimately, it seems that no one was removed from the flight, though the Flight Attendant kept her distance and even allegedly turned her name tag over, so that her name wouldn’t be noted.

When you’re working in customer service, some days can be hard. You’re simply not in the mood and you have to work. Personally, I find it hard to be pleasant on such days.

But when your job is in the public eye, when you’re supposed to be offering hospitality and when the issue is a mere Irish coffee, perhaps it’s best to walk away for a moment, take several breaths and realize that expressing your frustration isn’t likely to help. 

Perhaps even get someone else to look after the customer, if you feel you might suffer an exploding gasket.

Of course, it could be that the passenger had a difficult look in his eye. So many minute things occur when humans try to communicate with each other. 

The onlooker says he’s now filed a complaint with American Airlines.

I contacted American to ask for its view. An airline spokesperson told me: 

We are aware of the post, and are in the process of proactively reaching out to the passengers. We have also reached out to Mesa as well.

Paul Rosen