FA Asks Flier If He’s “Mentally Retarded”

October 30, 2009

in Attendant & Pilot Stories

I recently flew on business from Northwest Arkansas (XNA) to Charlotte on US Airways. It was an early Monday morning so the flight was almost completely full. I boarded and sat in seat 1F next to the window and had a young woman sitting next to me in the aisle seat. Across the aisle in row 1 both seats were open. The rest of the seats behind me appeared to be completely full. The flight attendant came on the overhead announcing that we would be leaving a little late due to weight distribution issues and that passengers should go ahead and turn off all cell phones and electronic devices. The plane door was not closed so I briefly continued reading through my early morning emails on my phone.

A few minutes later the door was closed and we were ready to depart. A man 2 or 3 rows behind me got up to move to row 1 across from where I was seated. The flight attendant rudely asked the man why he was out of his seat. He mumbled something about moving up to the 1st row. She snapped at him by saying, “Sir, we have weight distribution issues. I’ve already said that. You’re holding up my flight.” She then pointed to his seat and said, “GO SIT BACK DOWN!”

I ignored this bizarre and rude behavior and went back to reading my email, forgetting that the plane door had now been closed. The flight attendant’s voice then came on overhead and stated, “Ladies and gentlemen, for the 4TH TIME turn off all cell phones and electronic devices!” I look up from my phone to see the attendant is leaning over, phone in hand, starring me straight in the face. She had to have been within 5 feet of my face. She was speaking to me directly yet on the phone so everyone else on the plane would hear. She then proceeded to say, “If you have a learning disability I would be more than happy to help you turn off your phone.”

At this point I was shocked that she would actually say this to a plane load of people. I was equally shocked that she appeared to be saying it directly to me via the loudspeaker. Then it gets worse.

She hung up the phone after these comments. At this point I began to turn my phone off as quickly as possible. The flight attendant then looks down at me again (without the speaker phone) and asks me, “Sir, are you mentally retarded? Do I need to help you turn your phone off?” I looked up at her and firmly stated that I have it under control and I’m turning the phone off. I could honestly not believe that she would actually say this out loud to a passenger. I then said angrily to the young woman next to me, “I know she didn’t just say that to me.” The flight attendant heard me say this and quickly attempted to make things better by thanking me for my sense of humor so early in the morning. I did not find this funny at all.

The following day I emailed US Airways Customer Relations department telling them my story. I received a short email response apologizing for the flight attendant’s behavior. I responded to the email saying that I was unsatisfied and would like to speak with someone at US Airways over the phone to discuss my ordeal. I received a 2nd email response. No phone call. After my 3rd email saying again that this was not acceptable to me I finally received a phone call from Customer Relations.

I spoke with a representative for almost half an hour and retold my story only to be told again how sorry they were. I told her I was not looking for a hand-out from US Airways but was surprised they were not offering something more than a verbal apology to a frequent flier with their airline. After arguing this point for a few more minutes the representative put me on hold. She came back a few minutes later and said that she had agreed to send me an email with a flight voucher for future travel, although it was against their normal policy. She did not give me the details of the value of the voucher over the phone.

The final verdict: $25 to $100 off of my next purchased flight. Amount off depends on the total ticket amount of the future flight.

Hardly fair compensation for being asked if I am retarded.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

B October 30, 2009 at 5:16 pm

I have to say…if I were that flight attendant..I'd probably ask you the same thing myself. You yourself claim to be a "frequent flyer", yet you have to be told more than once to turn you phone off? You may not be retarded.. but you are obviously obnoxious. You deserved it.


Cheran October 30, 2009 at 8:52 pm

The flight attendant should have received some sort of reprimand from the airline for asking if you were retarded, and she probably did after they received your emails and spoke with you at length on the phone. Sounds like she needed a refresher course in how to pleasantly deal with customers.

That being said, you should have turned off your cell phone when the first announcement was made, regardless of whether the door was still open or not. If you were "not looking for a hand-out", then why gripe about the future flight discount you received?


TheBigM October 31, 2009 at 12:36 am

To be fair to the FA, she probably has to deal with typical business travellers all the time. You know the ones, ignore the safety briefing, refuse to turn off electrical equipment until asked ad infitum, rude to staff, in a rush to get off the plane, filling up the luggage bin with their suitcase so that they don't have to queue by the carousel.

Its got to wear you down.Good point by Cheran, why did you continue to badger the airline after you got the apology if you didn't want any other compensation?


Aaron October 31, 2009 at 3:44 am

Seems to me you WERE looking for a handout!


ps October 31, 2009 at 7:36 am

Are we supposed to be sympathetic? Couldn't the emails wait?


Smiling Charmer October 31, 2009 at 7:44 am

Seriously,I hope you've learned a lesson -turn off your cell the first time the FA asks passengers to do so. FAs are there for your safety, not your comfort. They know when you must turn your cell off.


Dianna October 31, 2009 at 8:44 am

Regardless of whether or not the FA was in the right to get annoyed with him, taking it to the point of asking if he was "retarded" is just plain offensive. It is possible to enforce a rule without resorting an ad hominem attack.


Diane October 31, 2009 at 10:41 am

I'm siding with the FA on this one. I could understand if you were a newbie. You chest thumping, temper tantrum throwing, "I want to speak to the CEO of the airline" threatening, frequent fliers know the drill. You imagine yourselves sooooo important that the rules and regulations don't apply to you. You admit you heard the first announcement. Why didn't you just turn off the Crackberry? I guarantee the world kept on spinning even after you finally got the hint and turned it off.


Demotage October 31, 2009 at 11:32 am

Actually, I turned my phone off once and the world actually STOPPED SPINNING!!! Luckily for you all I turned it right back on before any harm was done. 😉


Bob October 31, 2009 at 11:47 am

FAs certainly have more than their share of frustrations. Nonetheless, they're supposed to maintain a professional demeanor, as does anyone else who deals with the public. Additionally, her remarks could be taken as being insensitive to anyone on the plane who had family members with a learning disability.


Robert November 1, 2009 at 9:07 pm

Swithch off your phone next time they ask you to do so and everything will be OK. Can't understand why you write such a lengthy story about a non issue. Seems quite retarded to me.


Hugh November 2, 2009 at 1:56 am

I've been on flights with retards like you. They think that rules apply to everyone BUT them. Everyone else was able to shut off their phones, but YOU are so important that obviously they couldn't have meant you as well. Next time, listen to the FA and don't hold everyone else up. When they say turn off all cell phones and electronic devices, SHUT IT OFF, RETARD!!!


Snoops November 2, 2009 at 6:03 am

People, people, people. Human beings who unfortunately are afflicted with mental retardation are very loving AND NON JUDGMENTAL! On the other hand, people who make fun of people with disabilities are inhuman.

Were a flight attendant to ask me if I'm mentally retarded, my response would be, "Right now I wish I were, because I wouldn't be recognizing how rude and insensitive you are! May I please have your name and employee number?"

Another effective response when asked if you're mentally retarded is to say, "no, but my daughter is." I don't have a daughter, but it sure teaches the offender a lesson in a big hurry.


Demotage January 3, 2010 at 7:07 pm


Do you get asked that a lot? 😉


Snoops January 3, 2010 at 11:32 pm

Actually no, but thanks for asking? lol


Laura January 4, 2010 at 6:07 am



msnovtue November 2, 2009 at 6:36 am

While the flight attendant handled this poorly, you brought it on yourself by not complying with the FA's instructions. (which, incidentally, is a federal law….)


RTF November 2, 2009 at 7:44 am

First get the airline right. You may have bought the ticket through USAirways but the flight was flown by one of their Express carriers. The list includes Mesa, Freedom, PSA, Shuttle America, etc. Second get off your damn cell phone and comply with the flight attendants instructions.


Demotage November 2, 2009 at 4:43 pm


my son was playing in a recreational league flag football game. He was very tall for his age and he was having a very good day on the field. I was sitting near two moms of players on the opposing team. After a good play, one mom says to the other: "that tall kid is killing us! Maybe he'll get Marfan syndrome and die before the game is over!" (Marfan is a genetic disorder where tall people die suddenly of an anurysm). The other Mom said "yeah that would be great!". I didn't say anything because I knew they were just engaging in gallows humor, but still! A few minutes later, my son scored a TD, and he excitedly ran over to the sideline to ask me if I'd seen it. So of course, the two moms realized that they were sitting right next to the dad of the kid they'd wishes sudden death upon. They looked at each other, and without another word, picked up their lawn chairs and fled. They spent the rest of the game sitting in their cars. Sweet revenge was mine.


Traveler1 January 8, 2016 at 7:36 pm

Holy hell, what horrible women. Imagine how they'd feel if your son (god forbid) actually was hurt or dead? They'd probably feel nothing because you'd have to be some sort of callous freak to even think of that kind of thing to begin with, even for a "joke"….I mean there are jokes and there are just sickos. How unfortunate that they themselves have children, poor things.


JVM November 5, 2009 at 10:06 am

1) Turn off your cell-phone. Everything goes more smoothly when we all abide by the rules…however, ridiculous they may be.

2) The FA was rude and unprofessional. If she does not like her job, she should seek employment elsewhere. I am so tired of these old, overweight , tired hags with attitude.

3)Flying used to be a lot more glamorous for the FA's and the passengers. Passengers are now herded on planes and treated like livestock…and FA's are treated like waitresses. It's a downward spiral…the airlines treat the customers like dirt, they in turn treat airline personnel badly. It is up to airline personnel to change the standard….afterall, we pay to fly….you are paid to fly.


Hells Belle January 6, 2016 at 4:42 pm

That's what an FA is : Waitress on an airplane.


david November 5, 2009 at 1:35 pm

jvm…….i dont think it matters how well the airline treats people, the people will always try and take advantage of FA's and cry when their every need isnt met, the pass. will treat the FA's like personal maids and think that they are there to serve them


jvm November 6, 2009 at 8:36 am


The Flight Attendant's job is to serve the passengers, and make the flight as pleasant and enjoyable as possible for the paying clients….in addition, to being there for their safety.

Come on, some flight attendants have this delusion of grandeur….that they are highly skilled professionals. I used to work for the airlines…I know there are few educational requirements, and minimal training for these "professionals". No offense. But, let's be honest. They are there to help us on and off the plane safely, (be it emergency or normal operations), to enforce the FAA and airlines guidelines, provide CPR and limited emergency help to passengers in need, and to bring us our beverage, blanket etc….and, make the flight enjoyable. The qualifications are minimal, and skills are similar to those achieved by teenage lifeguards.

And yes, you would be surprised how well flight attendants are treated, when they provide a pleasant flying experience for the passengers. I do realize, oftentimes the FA's hands are tied in providing customer service by the limitations imposed on them by corporate. But, they can still be pleasant, well groomed and take pride in their job.


Ron - St. Louis January 3, 2010 at 3:36 pm

I agree with Cheran, the FA was wrong in her approach but the passenger was clearly at fault. You were given a direction and didn't follow it. Then you complained to the airlines until they gave you a coupon because you didn't follow the FA's instructions.

It often reminds me of hearing the FAs tell people to stay in their seats with their seatbelts fastened until the plane comes to a full stop and the captain has turned off the fasten seatbelt sign. You can hear the dozens of clicks of people underdoing their safety belts long before the plane reaches the gate. The evil side of me has always secretly hoped the captain would slam the breaks on really hard just to rattle all those idiots that can't follow instructions. Of course, those are the same idiots that would sue the airline because they weren't wearing the safety belt they were told to keep on.


Bob May 11, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Are you often asked if you are retarded ? if so, perhaps the answer is yes ! Turn off the cell phone you special boy.


Krampus May 13, 2010 at 3:53 am

Not all speds are loving, sometimes they are very violent and bite their handlers.

The OP sounds like a spoiled princess type IMO who would not get a sympathetic response from me if I were working for the airline.


Dee August 12, 2010 at 10:34 am

That IS a flight from hell – for the FA!!!! Shame on you – for blaming someone else for something you did wrong! Although I'm sure are not retarded, you are definitely a self-absorbed narcissistic freeloader whose only concern in life is YOU and what makes YOU happy and screw everyone else. Well, get off the high horse, Tonto. If I were you, I'd delete this posting because not only is NO ONE is on your side, but you have totally humiliated yourself by posting this!! (Maybe you ARE retarded!!)


Thi Halpern January 4, 2013 at 2:35 pm

FA was a bit incompetent, but OP reads like he's a bit too self-important.


Maggie May 13, 2015 at 9:42 pm

I can't believe you thought the flight attendant acted "bizzarely and rudely" for insisting a passenger NOT suddenly jump up and begin switching seats right during take-off, after he'd been told to stay seated. Passengers complain about delays and then do stupid shit like that guy and this poster. These are the exact type of things that cause delays. The nerve of some people!


Eleanour de St. Jean January 6, 2016 at 4:52 pm

*I* am on this guys side. She was out of line. Her cranky, self-important power trip was abusive. I'm tired of the nasty old hags on flights, too, and I'm a woman. And then – The male flight attendants are usually the next-best thing. Like male nurses.


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