They're authoritative, courteous, and could win an Olympic gold in Complimentary Beverage Pouring. But flight attendants have baggage, too. Read on for 6 first-class examples of flight attendants who brought their own turbulence to the job.
1. Attention Passengers: This Is Captain Morgan Speaking
Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight attendant Sarah Mills didn't have to leave the ground to reach a comfortable boozing altitude. In 2007, she showed up to work with a blood alcohol level which was technically low enough to legally drive, but not low enough to keep her from dropping the f-bomb and threatening to punch boarding passengers. The flight from Kentucky to Atlanta was cancelled when a replacement flight attendant couldn't be found. Mills admitted to drinking whiskey aboard, but pleaded not guilty to terroristic threatening and public alcohol intoxication. The question remains: Did she BYOB or chug a few of those tiny bottles of Jack Daniels?
2. The Public Duress System
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Back in March, American Airlines Flight 2332 from Dallas to Chicago was delayed when a flight attendant delivered a 15-minute rant over the plane's public address system. But this tirade wasn't about stowing portable electronic devices. As the pilot taxied the aircraft to the runway, the flight attendant rambled about the airline's bankruptcy and impending technical difficulties, announcing, "I'm not responsible for this plane crashing." Four passengers had to help another flight attendant restrain her co-worker. The plane returned to the gate and the entire crew was replaced.
3. To Blog, Or Not To Blog
Remember when people didn't realize that blogging about their jobs might get them fired? Back in 2004, flight attendant Ellen Simonetti was suspended and then fired for her blog "Queen of Sky: Diary of a Dysfunctional Flight Attendant." Simonetti's Internet prose was more about travel tips than steamy mile-high club anecdotes, and the flight attendant even kept her employer anonymous. But Delta Airlines didn't appreciate pictures of the perky blonde goofing off on an empty plane and climbing inside the overhead compartment ... in uniform. D'oh! In 2005, Simonetti sued Delta for sex discrimination and retaliation, eventually settling out of court. She became an advocate/cautionary tale for bloggers, scored a book deal, and may even have her own biopic in the works. The sky's the limit!
4. Take This Job and Shove It Down The Evacuation Slide
No list of flight attendants gone postal (er, continental) would be complete without mentioning Steven Slater. The JetBlue flight attendant made headlines in 2010 when he quit over the public address system ("I've been in this business 20 years. And that's it, I'm done."), grabbed two beers from the plane's food service galley, deployed the emergency evacuation chute, and slid himself right out of a career. Accounts vary as to what triggered the Office Space-worthy meltdown after an otherwise ordinary flight from Pittsburgh to NYC. Slater says he was hit on the head with luggage by a cursing passenger who refused to wait until the fasten seatbelt sign was off to remove her bag. Other witnesses said it was your typical encounter with a rude passenger, no big deal. Slater later tried to recant and go back to work, but formally resigned a month later. To some, he's a working-class hero. JetBlue called him reckless ("Slides can be as dangerous as a gun") and said he was probably drunk and suffering from mental problems.
5. Skyway Robbery
Ever feel like you're getting robbed when a full flight gets cancelled for no apparent reason, or you're given a single cup of soda to get through a cross-country trip? It could be worse—sometimes airline employees actually steal your stuff. In September, Horizon Air flight attendant Wendy Ronelle Dye was arrested near Portland after swiping a passenger's iPad. When the device went missing, the passenger checked a tracking app he'd installed and found it with Dye's personal belongings. The flight attendant claimed that the iPad was turned in as a lost item. When the passenger got it back, he discovered that Dye had already stored some of her personal information on the tablet. Back in February, a male flight attendant named Jean Paulino stole about $140 and two driver's licenses right off the X-ray machine at a Newark Liberty International Airport security checkpoint. Police arrested the man as he prepared to board a flight to Washington. Turns out, Paulino wasn't even a flight attendant!
6. Southwest Airlines's Got Talent
Most flight attendants are cordial. But if you're lucky, you might fly with a dancing, singing, safety-enforcing triple threat. With beatboxers, rappers, and Elvis impersonators in the crew, Southwest Airlines knows how to keep passengers on the edge of their cramped, hardly adjustable seats. Too bad they don't pass out popcorn...