Flight attendants worry for safety while in uniform

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Flight attendants worry for safety while in uniform

An anonymous international airline flight attendant expressed in a recent op-ed that she takes off her uniform as soon as she can because she fears for her personal safety.

The flight attendant, who went by the pseudonym Meryl Love in the opinion piece she wrote for The Guardian, a British publication, is apparently not alone in her sentiment.

Worries about travel safety and security have emerged in the last year as flight crew face unruly and disrespectful passengers, violence and staffing issues, according to the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO (AFA) — the nation’s leading flight attendant union.

Fox News Digital reached out to the AFA for comment about the accuracy of the op-ed among its 50,000-member union. 

In response, Fox News Digital received a copy of materials from a Homeland Security transportation hearing from Nov. 16, 2021; the union’s president Sara Nelson spoke during that event about flight attendant safety concerns.

“Flight Attendants wonder every morning they put on their uniform whether [they will have] a sign of leadership and authority in the cabin to keep everyone safe, or a target for a violent attack,” Nelson said at the time.

Flight attendant checking over head.
Unruly passengers are nothing new, but should flight attendants have to deal with possible hostile and violent situations?
Getty Images

Nelson noted that in the year 2021, flight attendants saw an increase of disruptive behavior among passengers that the organization hadn’t seen in aviation history before.

In an internal survey of 5,000 flight attendants, the AFA says that 85% of respondents had dealt with “unruly passengers” in the first half of 2021. 

“While the number of bad actors is relatively small, the incidents of disruptions have been so pervasive,” Nelson said. 

“The frequency of events [has] led some in the media to refer to the disruptive outbursts and violent behavior as a ‘new normal.’ That is something we simply cannot accept for our safety and security.”

Some of these in-flight disruptions were fueled by alcohol consumption among passengers — plus a failure in communicating the “rules and penalties” against unruly behavior, according to Nelson.

Nelson testified that disruptive passengers increase the chance that a flight attendant, whom she considers a first responder of the skies, will miss out on cues of a coordinated attack.

To ease the plight that flight attendants have been facing, Nelson suggested that addressing violence and disrespect toward flight crew on the ground can help reduce incidents on flights, along with stronger government actions, keeping a centralized list of violators, addressing staffing shortages and providing self-defense training.

Nelson made her list of suggestions eight months ago — and it appears that flight attendants are still having a hard time.

In the op-ed published in The Guardian, author “Meryl Love” wrote that summer is a stressful time for travel because there’s an increase in passengers.

Two flight attendants greeting passagers at door.
As travel starts to pick up again as we come out of the pandemic, the growing fear for safety in the air lingers on flight attendants’ minds.
Getty Images

“Passengers are particularly tense in this summer of travel chaos, and in my cabin crew uniform, I am the physical embodiment of all their flying woes,” Love wrote. 

“The frustration of lost bags, delays and canceled flights is heightened by the holidays lost to [COVID-19].”

She added that travelers “forget that people in uniforms are real people.”

Love went on to say that she tries to show sympathy to “irate” flight passengers who turn to her to vent their frustrations. 

“If you show one ounce of sass, you’re done for,” she also wrote. 

“I say sorry. I’m very, very sorry. I’ve been saying it so much lately.”

Love said she used to wear her flight attendant uniform whenever she’d go home after a shift.

Today, however, she removes it and changes into her civilian clothes whenever she exits an airport security turnstile.

“If you’re anywhere in the vicinity of the airport, you’re an unofficial public relations rep for the whole airline industry,” Love concluded. 

“I sit on the tube [the subway] and hope no one recognizes me from the flight.”

An ongoing “unruly passenger” investigation from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shows that the number of disruptive incidents in the U.S. are down at the time of publication.

Still, there were 2.4 incidents documented for every 10,000 flights for the week ending July 3, 2022.

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