I boarded JetBlue flight 186 from San Diego to New York last night. As I boarded the line of passengers stopped me next to a female flight attendant. She started the usual nonsense small talk with me. In an effort to be polite I asked her: “How do the pilots look? Do they look sober and well rested?” The line of passengers lurched forward at that moment and I moved down the aisle without hearing her response. A couple of minutes later I was approached at my seat by a large athletic male flight attendant named Paul.
Paul informed me I was likely to be removed from the plane and someone would be coming to speak with me. I was, of course, confused. He clarified for me that in the opinion of the flight crew my innocuous attempt at reciprocating small talk with the female crew member was, in fact, the same as announcing to the passengers on the plane that a bomb was on the plane. I politely disagreed. Paul insisted it was the very same. I told Paul that I travel very often, but usually on Southwest. I told him that perhaps I’m just more accustomed to the casual nature of Southwest. He assured me that this is not a matter of differing airline policies and that indeed my small talk was a very serious matter with very serious repercussions. I told Paul I respected his opinion, but disagreed that what I said was at all offensive or anything similar to what he was suggesting (I didn’t want to say bomb aloud as he had). Further, if they had a problem with me on the plane I would prefer they quickly make up there minds because I would rather go home to my family than be on the flight if they had a problem with me. Paul walked away after reiterating someone would be coming to speak with me.
By now I noticed the entire flight crew was glaring at me with venom. Uncomfortable. Many minutes later Paul returned and insisted that I leave my seat and follow him toward the front of the plane. Honestly, I was scared. I thought there was a good chance I was about to be zip cuffed and drug off the plane. Did I mention Paul was big? I complied with Paul’s demand and left my laptop and things at my seat. When I got to the front of the plane I was told to exit the plane. There was a very nice fellow named Pak that awaited me on the jetway. He asked me: “were you serious about what you said?” I told him what I had said: “How do the pilots look? Do they look sober and well rested?” and told him there was absolutely no way anyone could have thought I was accusing the pilots of sleep deprivation or insobriety.
Pak was very polite and I feel like he too seemed to think the whole incident ridiculous. He told me I could re-board the plane. I told him that if there was going to be a problem with me on the plane I would prefer to just leave now and I would simply never fly JetBlue again. He reassured me there would be no problem. I asked that he board first and speak with the flight attendants that were still in a huddle at the front of the plane. He insisted I go first for some odd reason. I boarded and reassured the two female attendants Storm and Angela (I think) that I was just making small talk. Again, they were not very nice. In an attempt to make light of the situation I stated: “I hope this doesn’t negatively impact my ability to be served in flight drinks.”
When we reached altitude and in-flight service began I was still feeling more than a little frazzled. Big Paul asked me for my drink order and I asked for a vodka cranberry. After serving everyone but me Paul finally brought me my beverage. Odd, I thought, but I thanked him politely. However, later when I ordered my second Paul spoke loud enough for everyone in the vicinity to hear that I was not to be served anything at all, but he had made an exception for the first.
Uhh…throughout this entire experience I was nothing but articulate and polite. Of course, the twenty people within earshot of Paul didn’t know this. As far as they knew I was a belligerent drunk. Awkward. I told Paul that I had told him and Pak on the ground that if they had a problem with me I would rather not fly with them and I wish he would have been upfront about this on the ground. “That is very strange. I have never had a passenger that wanted to get off a plane just because he couldn’t drink” responded Paul, again loudly. I told him it wasn’t about not being able to drink, but rather being treated poorly.
Thanks JetBlue for the horrible experience. You are now on my blacklist with Delta and Northwest.
Update: my connecting JetBlue flight is now delayed by more than hour.
Update: my connecting JetBlue flight was delayed by five hours.