The Consumerist has an interesting story about a United Airlines passenger that overhead a flight attendant refer to the passengers in coach as “idiots,” in the context of “starting on drinks for the idiots in coach.” A passenger overheard this on Channel 9, through which passengers can listen to air traffic control communications. In this case one of the knobs on the audio panel was set to include communications among the crew on Channel 9, since these communications aren’t typically transmitted over Channel 9.
Anyway, a passenger mentioned overhearing the “idiot” comment to the flight attendant and didn’t receive an apology, and the next thing we know The Consumerist is all over this.
First let me say that it’s rude and unacceptable to refer to your customers as idiots. That being said, this is really being blown out of proportion. I think we can all say that we’ve referred to customers as idiots at our workplaces at one point or another behind their backs. I’ve heard much worse at places I’ve worked at. Maybe some passengers were rude and were causing problems, or maybe the flight attendant was just in a pissy mood. The fact is, we all generalize and let bad words slip once in a while. I’ve also heard flight attendants use much worse words for pilots, although that’s a different story.
The unfortunate part of this story is the end result. The passenger heard this through Channel 9, which is at the discretion of the captain. Many United captains (I’d say north of 50% nowadays) choose to leave Channel 9 off for a variety of reasons. In this case I think it’s no mystery what this particular captain will do on future flights. This situation could have been avoided had Channel 9 not been on, and that’s the sad part.
The only thing I’ll ever say to a captain regarding Channel 9 is “thanks for turning it on,” and there’s good reason for that. Thanks to this passenger and “Nicholas” for ruining it for all of us.