Benjamin Levine is still trying to make sense of a confrontation with a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight from London to Dallas.
Adding to his confusion: a passive-aggressive response from the airline that stopped short of an apology. He turned to our advocates for help sorting it out.
First, a few details about Levine. He’s a physician and administrator, and by his own description, a polite and mild-mannered passenger. Most important, he’s an American Airlines Platinum frequent flier and was sitting in business class when the altercation happened.
You’d think the airline would be quick to apologize to such a high-value passenger and do whatever it takes to make it up to him. But like Levine, you’d be wrong.
Levine had a bulkhead row seat, one of the most coveted seats on the aircraft. When the plane took off at 3 p.m., the cabin crew served a meal, and then Levine’s seatmate fell fast asleep.
“Since I had to work the next day seeing patients, it was very important to me to try to reset my internal clock to Central Time as quickly as possible, and there is compelling scientific research that the best way to do this is to be exposed to natural light, which resets circadian rhythms,” he says. “My row mate was quite comfortable leaving the window open, and wore an eye mask, so we agreed to leave it open.”
About two hours later, as he was working, a flight attendant climbed over him and slammed the window shade down.
“When I asked her to please leave it open, she rudely responded, ‘Can’t you see that your row mate is sleeping?’ When I politely pointed out that he had been sleeping quietly for two hours and was clearly not bothered, she pivoted and said that another passenger behind me had asked for the window shade to be pulled down.”
Levine said he “gently” pushed back, asking if it was typical for a passenger in another seat to have control over his window.
“She exhaled loudly and aggressively,” he reports. “She started yelling at me, pointing her finger in my face, right against my nose, saying that if I didn’t shut up, she was going to call the police when we landed and have me forcibly detained on the ground.”
She kept repeating over and over again: “Do you understand? Do not say another word!”
I found this extraordinarily strange, as I was sitting quietly in my seat, not speaking or acting in a threatening manner, and not even challenging her authority -– just trying to keep my window shade open so I could be as alert as possible to take care of patients the next day. This was my main reason for me purchasing a business class ticket.
Levine asked to speak with the purser; his request was denied. So he walked to the back of the plane himself and found the supervisor, who was “quite responsive and after a fair amount of discussion, moved the flight attendant to another part of the plane.”