I travelled from Geneva to Dublin, with Aer Lingus on EI689, on Saturday, 5th. March with my two children, aged 12 and 9. We had enjoyed an excellent week skiing in Courmayeur but now we were tired and looking forward to our beds that night in Dublin.
The flight was called and we were among the first to head up the jetway. About 15 metres from the entrance to the aircraft there was a barrier. We stopped here, along with everybody else behind us in a long queue, and we remained here for 25 minutes, with no clue as to the reason for being kept here.
It was late (10pm), cold and the lights were intermittently powering on and off and there were families with children much younger than mine. I became increasingly annoyed at being left waiting without the benefit of any information. When we eventually boarded the aircraft I demanded an explanation from the Cabin Services Director, and I raised my voice to indicate my extreme annoyance. We were seated in row 1.
The female CSD became annoyed with me and reprimanded me for approaching her in that fashion. She also stated that she did not appreciate being verbally abused and that it was against the law to verbally abuse a member of crew on an aircraft.
At no time did I use offensive language; at no time did I encroach on her personal space and, after the initial raising of my voice for approximately 3-5 seconds, I was calm but persistent in my demand for an explanation. I therefore told her that I did not consider my behavior to constitute verbal abuse. She said it would be up to her, and her alone, to make that decision.
The CSD pointed out repeatedly that I should have asked ground staff for an explanation. I pointed out that the delay was obviously with the aircraft, I had paid my money to them to fly me and they should be able to furnish me with an explanation. There had been nobody from ground staff present when we were waiting within sight and earshot of the aircraft door. This banter went backwards and forwards with neither of us very happy but, again, I was civil in my approach but very persistent. At one stage she asked me if I thought that the way I was behaving was a good example for my children!! This was a completely inappropriate comment for her to make in front of everybody seated in the aircraft.
Then a ground staff member came on board and I asked the two crew members who were in the vicinity if I could request an explanation from him. They ignored me so I directed my question at this person, who replied, very conveniently, that he had just then taken over from another colleague and could not answer my question.
The CSD then called me round from my seat to the galley area and threatened me with being offloaded from the aircraft because she did not know if I would constitute a physical threat to her and her crew and she was also unsure if my state of mind meant I was fit to fly. She pointed out that she was the one to make that decision and that if I did not cease demanding an explanation, for which she claimed not to have an answer, she would have to ask me to disembark and be denied the right to fly.
This was a clear over reaction to the situation, a flagrant abuse of authority and I was amazed when she made this threat. I am a Star Alliance Gold member and I fly more than 150,000 miles a year. I have never been subjected to such an abuse of authority. I know how to behave myself on aircraft and I have seen people being removed from aircraft, but for being drunk, threatening, or so afraid of the prospect of flying that they became uncontrollable, but never for persistence in demanding an explanation.
Apart from the initial few seconds of raising my voice (for which I later apologized) I was calm.
I felt we, the passengers, were being kept in the dark about the reason for the delay. Subsequently, a lady in row 3, who had required assistance to board the aircraft and had been left sitting in a wheelchair on the tarmac for almost the same length of time that we were kept waiting, told me that she had been offered an explanation by the ground crew attending to her – the cabin crew had been taking a tea break………….!! Perhaps this was the reason an explanation had not been offered, which would not surprise me.
I would be very pleased to see if Aer Lingus are willing to offer an explanation at this stage. I have no doubt that my “threatening stance and verbal abuse” towards the CSD will have been included in the flight report (that every CSD is obliged to submit), but I bet you there will be no mention of the reason for the 25 minute delay.
Your excellent magazine, and the website forum, provides a vehicle through which the flying passengers’ voices can be heard and for this I am grateful. Aer Lingus’s Customer Service is terrible and I doubt that I would even receive a reply to a letter if I had bothered to communicate my dissatisfaction directly to them.