Southwest Never Meant To Apologize To Doctor They Had Arrested

In our post earlier today about the 65-year-old doctor who tried to use the bathroom on a recent Southwest flight and was subsequently arrested, we noted that the airline sent him an apology letter and a $100 voucher. That seemed kind of inappropriate for the situation, right? It turns out the letter was never meant for Dr. Madduri and was sent to him by mistake. According to our reader RedwoodFlyer (Sockatume also picked up on it), the letter was actually about him and was sent to all the other passengers on the flight; he was never meant to see it.

The problem was that the person who wrote the apology letter mixed up the gender of Dr. Madduri—which led him to believe it was about the female flight attendant in question—when really he was the individual with the “bizarre behavior.” When you read it with this new understanding, it becomes clear that Southwest fully sided with the flight attendant and never meant to communicate with Dr. Madduri about the issue.

“Dear Sivaprasad Madduri: Sometimes an explanation for the reason why things happen isn’t always possible, and the bizarre behavior of the individual during your June 26 flight to Las Vegas supports this point. While I’m unable to explain the circumstances surrounding the disruption, I think it’s important to offer my heartfelt apologies for any concerns you may have had as a result of this event. Naturally, we don’t want this experience to affect your feelings about flying with us in the future, or for it to be your last recollection of traveling with our Company.

“In fact, we would consider it a privilege if you gave us another opportunity to provide you with better memories. I am confident your next trips with Southwest Airlines will be more pleasant and to prove just that, I sent a LUV Voucher to every person (except, of course, the lady who caused the disruption) who was onboard your flight.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Dr. Madduri’s arrest and the apology letter back in July, and they were able to get a slightly different story from Southwest that naturally makes the airline come off in a better light, but still leaves many questions unanswered:

Brandy King, the spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines, said flight attendants were required to explain the cockpit-door and front-galley regulations as part of the preflight announcements.

Yes, but many of us zone out during those announcements.

King said the flight attendant tried to explain the regulation to Madduri during the incident. The criminal complaint, filed by the FBI, makes mention of a second flight attendant who allegedly tried to explain the regulation to Madduri after he returned to his seat after his first effort to get to the lavatory. The complaint says the first flight attendant again tried to explain the regulation to Madduri when he made his second attempt. The complaint states that Madduri said, “I’m not listening to you.”

Did the FBI talk to any of the other passengers? That would settle the argument. Sadly, the FBI office in Las Vegas did not return repeated phone calls.

“Doctor now regrets pleading guilty over incident on airplane” [STLtoday via airliners.net]

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. jeffbone says:

    Maybe I’m the only one who pays attention during those announcements anymore…the only thing I’ve ever heard relating to the forward lavatory is “Don’t line up in the forward galley.” I’ve never heard anything about not getting up while the captain or first officer is using the lavatory, unless they just started that in the last 30 days.

    Heck, I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen the captain or first officer emerge from the cockpit during flight on a Southwest flight. Most of them are short enough that the crew apparently follows their mom’s advice to “Go before you leave…”

    • ajlei says:

      @jeffbone: Agreed on the announcement front. I flew a couple months ago and heard no mention of that, and flying freaks me out a little so I tend to hang onto their every word.

    • joel. says:

      @jeffbone: I agree. I’ve flown countless times since 9/11 and haven’t once heard that from a flight attendant. Not on Continental, AA, Southwest, or US Air. And I certainly haven’t seen the pilot come out of the cockpit to use the lave.

      • endersshadow says:

        @joel.: I fly twice a week on Southwest, and they always say this. “Due to Federal Regulations, you cannot line up outside the forward lavatory.” It’s usually said in between the life vests and the oxygen masks, since the flight attendants walk back and check the seat belts when they put the life vest on.

        In the words of Terry Tate, “That ain’t new, baby!”

    • yasth says:

      @jeffbone: I am fairly sure there is just some confusion, and it really has nothing to do with the captain being in the lav. It is entirely the don’t line up rule just being enforced a bit stricter because the captain is involved.

      I mean if you get up at that point you are lining up for the lav, which is a violation of security end of story.

      • samurailynn says:

        @yasth: I don’t think it should be considered “lining up” if you see the door open and a person leaving the lavatory. At that point, it should be considered, the next person is going into the bathroom.

    • Etoiles says:

      @jeffbone: Indeed. I’ve taken a few dozen flights in the last year, and I do pay attention during the safety speech, and on neither JetBlue nor Southwest, since 2006, have I ever heard them say, “if the pilot’s taking a piss, you must stay buckled in.” They just say you can’t queue up.

    • theblackdog says:

      @jeffbone: I have also heard the announcement is that you can’t line up, though I think I have heard it as if the occupied light is on, you have to wait until it is unoccupied before coming back.

      Also, I have seen the captain or first officer emerge from the cockpit during a Southwest flight, but that was because it was a non-stop from Baltimore to Phoenix (4.5 hour flight) ;-)

  2. The whole bit about how SW says flight attendants are required to indicate it’s against the law if the pilot leaves the cockpit during the pre-flight safety procedures is pure BS. I’ve never, ever heard of such a thing. Granted, I’ve never flown SW, however I’ve flown on a number of different airlines after 9/11 to know for a fact that not one attendant has ever said anything about this “law”. I think SW is trying to cover their asses after they messed up. Witnesses really need to be interviewed to find out what really happened.

    • adam_w says:

      @PhiCancri:

      I’ve flown with Southwest dozens of times and other airlines just as much in the last 7 years (including 10 trans-Pacific flights)and I haven’t heard anything about not getting up whilst any member of the flight crew is in the lav.

      Assuming the OP’s assertion that he’s truly an innocent victim is true, this really is a travesty.

    • Overheal says:

      I’ve flown sporadically over 2 dozen times over the last 8 years and have never once heard it anything about the captian/co-pilot’s lavatory conundrum. My most recent flight was this June.@PhiCancri:

    • FlyingMonkey says:

      @PhiCancri: I usually take two round-trip flights (so four total) a year, and I’ve never heard of this law. I’ve flown as recently as the 9th of this month (on Continental) and the pre-flight instructions made no mention of this. The only bathroom restriction was that the forward-most one was reserved for First/Business Class passengers.

      • Inglix_the_Mad says:

        @FlyingMonkey: Same here. I’ve got frequent flyer miles my grandkid’s will be using and NO airline I’ve flown has ever said anything about that. The first class / business class is the only thing that get’s mentioned about the front lavatory.

    • yggdriedi says:

      @PhiCancri: I’ll just add that I flew three Southwest flights in one day a month ago (cheap connecting flights) and none of the attendants mentioned this “law” – and I was paying attention, too. (I was comparing what the SW attendants said vs. what the Delta ones say, out of boredom. For the record, Delta didn’t say it either.)

      How would you know the captain is in the lavatory anyway?

    • MoreFunThanToast says:

      @PhiCancri:

      I’ve flown southwest plenty of times and I’ve never heard such regulations being mentioned during the announcement.

  3. EmperorOfCanada says:

    In light of this.. it sounds almost like SW is trying to bribe the other passengers of this flight…

    • @EmperorOfCanada: Ooooh interesting speculation. I was sitting here thinking “So a passenger (allegedly) creates a local disturbance on a flight and they send vouchers to everyone on the flight? I mean, I know Southwest is nice and all, but this is ridiculous.”

    • @EmperorOfCanada: I hadn’t thought of that, but you are ABSOLUTELY correct. $100 to every other passenger on the flight? Even passengers that weren’t near him? That sounds a little extreme. Where is that grandma that records other people’s flight disturbances when we need her. One video tape would clear all this mess up.

  4. gc3160thtuk says you got your humor in my sarcasm and you say you got your sarcasm in my humor says:

    wow what a bunch of dicks. I think I might sue them if I was the good doc.

  5. I flew a lot after 9/11. It was my misfortune that my job required me to travel between NJ, and OR at least once a month, round trip. I stopped back in 2007 after 5 years flying anywhere from once a month to once a week.

    I have never *ever* heard *any* announcement about “If the captain comes out of the cockpit gtf back in your seat you lousy sheeple!”.

    There *is* the “Follow the crew instructions or else.” variety of statement repeated until it’s echoing in your ear drums, and you want to… *twitch*

    Sorry flashback . . .

    Anyway as I was saying … Southwests excuse is just that … an excuse.

    I am *so* glad to not be flying anymore now that the airline crews seem to feel that the simplest misunderstanding needs to result in some poor person being arrested, and having to enter a guilty plea for a crime that will remain on their “file” for a very long time.

    What if the good Dr. needs a security clearance someday? It’s far more common than you think. I’d be fighting it too.

  6. It sounds like we’re going to have to hear from other passengers regarding what happened.

  7. Also I have to say that I can recall seeing the captain, or co-pilot come out of the cockpit at least once or twice. I am pretty sure the most they ever did was draw that little curtain, and not let people use that bathroom for awhile (I’m assuming until after the captain was done).

  8. Scuba Steve says:

    Group me in with the others who’ve flown within the last 3 years and never been told to remain seated while a pilot has left his seat.

    To be honest, I think that the way this person was treated is unacceptable, and while I think he should be compensated, that’s a small issue compared to the hundreds if not thousands of other passengers, citizens, innocent people who are treated like MUD when dealing with racist/ignorant security people.

    • @Scuba Steve: I can’t agree more. It’s one of the biggest reasons I wanted a job with no regular travel. The hassle of constantly delayed flights, inconsistent security practices (don’t even get me started!), and the ability for a flight attendant having a bad day after a fight with their spouse being able to have you put in JAIL upon landing?

      It’s too much.

      And the thing is I’m not even a “racial minority” if there is such a thing anymore.

  9. 12-Inch Idongivafuck Sandwich says:

    Never heard any flight attendant announcement about not getting up from your seats when the pilot isn’t in the cockpit. Total BS on Southwest’s part…

  10. humphrmi says:

    I recently flew AA ORD->SFO and back, and on both flights when someone from the cockpit needed to pitch a quart, they moved the food cart into a sort of angular position blocking the first class lav. It seemed pretty normal to me; they lock the cockpits for the safety of the flight crew, keeping them safe when they have to relieve themselves makes sense.

    At the same time, I have never in the gazillion flights I’ve taken since 9/11 ever heard the crew say don’t get out of your seat while the flight crew is in the open.

  11. I agree. I’ve never heard that on any airline, and I do pay attention to the preflight spiels at least enough to remember the general “categories” they mention (Exits, Oxygen, Seatbelts etc.) I know for SURE that “Pilot Pooping Procedures” were NOT covered ever.

    Fuck that horrible whore of a stewardess and fuck Southwest for not taking responsibility and fixing this.

    I say this even though I until today mostly liked Southwest for doing ballsy things like throwing bratty out-of-control kids (and their horrible parents) off the plane.

  12. MayorBee says:

    I fly about 4 times a month and while I do zone out on Continental’s safety spiel, I’ve never heard anything about staying in your seat when the captain or co-captain is pooping, even when flying to/from Washington Dulles and National.

  13. macinjosh says:

    Hopefully 24 of the other passengers will send him their vouchers so he can break even. :)

  14. BigBoat says:

    Infuriating. But I wish we knew the whole story.

  15. sir_eccles says:

    If it’s a federal regulation I’m sure it would be no problem for someone to cite it.

    *waits*

    *tumbleweed*

    • FlyingMonkey says:

      @sir_eccles: I did a brief Google search but couldn’t come up with anything about remaining in your seat if the pilot is out of the cockpit. Closest thing I read was that sometimes during “heightened security,” a federal “rule” prohibits passengers from getting out of their seats within 30 minutes of landing at certain airports. (Source: [www.americanrestroom.org])

  16. Jubilance22 says:

    I’ve flown SW several times, most recently in July, and I’ve never heard an announcement about the pilot being out of the cockpit. I think they made it all up to cover for the bizarre behavior of a flight attendant on a power trip.

  17. johnnya2 says:

    “King said the flight attendant tried to explain the regulation to Madduri during the incident.”

    Basic airline law is DO WHAT THE CREW TELLS YOU MORON.

    • lihtox says:

      @johnnya2: Like, “pee in your pants!”? Screw that.

      Plus she pushed him: that’s assault.

    • Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

      @johnnya2: Name calling isn’t particularly helpful, johnnya2. Let’s tone it down.

    • sodden says:

      @johnnya2:
      “Basic airline law is DO WHAT THE CREW TELLS YOU MORON.”

      Wow. Are you that retarded? What if the crew tries to do something that steps on your civil rights, or prevent you from doing something you have to do to survive? Are you just supposed to bend over and take it?

      Sorry, but as yet, the flight crew doesn’t quite have the force of law that requires us to do everything they say. It’s close but not quite there.

      Unfortunately, with people like you, it’s probably gonna get there.

      Btw, go back to your airlines job and quit shilling here for them.

    • @johnnya2: A lot of people seem to think that airline staff have some level of legal authority. It’s not true. They are private employees just like you or me. They don’t carry a badge or a gun, they carry peanuts and drinks. Don’t just do what they tell you because they told you. Sure, pay attention to them – they do know the plane better than you afterall, and that could be helpful in an emergency, but don’t blindly take their every word as law. They’re just people, and they are prone to mistakes and accidents same as anyone else.

      • johnnya2 says:

        @What The Geek: They absolutely have legal authority in the same way any police officer does. Airline crew can “stop any activity that could interfere with the crew or affect the safety of passengers and crew” . It is completely reasonable to tell the guy he can not pee at that time. So yes, if it requires he pee his pants, then he will have to do that. YOU MUST FOLLOW WHAT THE CREW SAYS. I hardly am a shill for the airlines, and if they request something completely out of line, you have th right to sue them for that. If a police officer tells you to pull over and you think you were not doing anything wrong, would you just keep going because you think its ok. YOU cant make that decision without risking being shot or arrested for fleeing. Learn a little law before you think you know it all.

        • @johnnya2: You are operating under the assumption that Southwest/The Stewardess is telling the truth.

          My main exception to your comparison is that Police Officers (supposedly) get extensive training on the following:

          1: Handling people in a confrontational situation.

          2: The LAW and what an officer can and cannot tell you to do.

          Did the passenger do everything right? Probably not, but he was likely in distress, and I don’t think his “transgression” deserved jail time, and a guilty plea.

          Did the Attendants do anything right? Very little. Pushing? Ordering? I can think of a half dozen ways the attendant could have handled the situation better.

    • Snowblind says:

      @johnnya2: Everyone! Stand on your heads!

      The story is proof absolute power is a bad idea… especially at 30000 feet.

    • Matthew Dillon says:

      @johnnya2: Yes, you must follow any and all directions given by flight staff. But please bear in mind that the flight attendant’s claims were made public only in a press release from the airline after the fact and may not be truthful. I have no doubt that someone who feels they can get away with the use of physical force on a passenger is also capable of lying to protect his own employment for his actions.

  18. SagunaBurdick says:

    I’m curious who regulates inflight rules like this…I can’t find anything on the TSA or DHS sites relative to this. And I fly first class and I’ve never heard this or been asked to step away when the cockpit door is open or a pilot is in the galley. I’ve had flight attendants watch me then, but as long as you’re not shifty or aggressive, they leave you alone. And since when does the government get to regulate peeing?

  19. PascalRook says:

    I indeed have heard this announcement. Once one a Horizon flight, when the FA asked everybody to remain seated while the poor little pilot used the potty.

    The second, was when I was chatting up an FA on WestJet (a Canadian airline), and the pilot phone her and asked if she could have me move from the door. She gave him a hard time about being friendly to passengers, perhaps he should have gone before they left, etc. All very friendly, all very “Canadian”.

    I agree that flying in the US is horrific, with all airlines demonstrating that customers should just “expect” to fly their airline, and not actually believe that customer service should in fact be service. It never was great in the last decade, and unfortunately, its just become a lot worse in the last 7 years.

    • jamar0303 says:

      @PascalRook: On a slightly related note, WestJet will be codesharing with Southwest for cross-border flights. I hope WestJet is flying the cross-border part and not Southwest, going by this.

      • majin_chichi says:

        @jamar0303: In May, I flew WestJet from Calgary, AB to Las Vegas, and it was WestJet planes, WestJet staff, etc. However, that was a direct flight.

        I’m Canadian, and WestJet is the only airline I’ll fly with. Their planes are clean and new, flight attendants are friendly and not afraid to crack a joke, and I love the free seatback TV. Considering my last experience with Air Canada involved me flying on a seemingly rickety plane, and having me miss my connection because they couldn’t load the luggage properly, there’s no way I’d fly with them again.

  20. How do you vote down a commenter? Is there like a negative heart thing?

  21. silver-bolt says:

    Video and Audio recording in flight should be mandatory. Sky Waitresses (and Waiters) should also be required to carry mics.

  22. azntg says:

    Southwest routinely gets kudos for not charging extra fees for everything.

    But it looks like there’s a price for that after all. Ever noticed the relative amount of public, high profile incidents that seems to be a commonplace occurance with Southwest (regardless of whether the people involved have “dirty hands” themselves)?

    Unfortunately for Dr. Madduri, it seems like he was just out of luck. Southwest was right when they said “the issue had no racial profile or bias.”

    He just wasn’t a western/northern European(-descent) male (I don’t ever recall people in that category being involved in high profile incidents with Southwest, to date). Absolutely no racism there. Don’t say the word “racism,” you terrorist! Don’t listen to that terrorist either. Just take the $100 voucher and shuddap!

    • proskills says:

      @azntg:

      It may have not been on Southwest, but there is certainly a president for people being arrested for basically no reason whatsoever on an aircraft. Now I’m certainly not going to speculate about what the flight attendant was saying or thinking, but here is an example of something that happened to a little old “white” lady:

      [consumerist.com]

    • Overheal says:

      @azntg: it was INDIA. Get a map. Its in no way a part of Europe.

      And if you saw the picture of the doctor in the link provided in the first article you might begin to understand this is a racially charged issue.

      • Roclawzi says:

        @Overheal: I believe Azntg was being sarcastic there, implying that the problem wasn’t with the doctor being indian, but rather that he wasn’t white. It didn’t work too well.

        And I saw his picture, he looks like Groucho Marx after falling asleep by the pool.

  23. dancing_bear says:

    They jail those kids, just like the good doctor.

  24. Difdi says:

    If aircraft carry bathrooms because of the fact that some people can’t hold it in until the plane lands…perhaps it’s NOT bizarre behavior that someone can’t hold it in?

  25. cjdmi says:

    Since the bathroom was already occupied, Dr. Madduri would have been forming a line. It doesn’t matter that the occupant was the captain.

    • @cjdmi: This has already been pointed out cjdmi, and if you read the original post at one point he said that he SAW the occupant of the lavatory open the door and at that point he got up to use the bathroom again. This isn’t forming a line. This is getting up to use a lavatory that you know to be unoccupied because you just saw the previous occupant leave.

  26. noncomjd says:

    I fly Jet Blue and they do this all the time. Before a crew member enters or leaves the cockpit, they angle and lock a serving cart to block the aisle forward of the first row. The cart remains there, with a cabin attendant, until the crew member returns to the cockpit.
    They do not make an announcement, but passengers can clearly see what is going on. Passengers going to towards the front are asked to use rear lavatory. No biggie.

    On the A320, there is only one lavatory in the forward section, the same with the 737. If a crew member was using it what was the doctor expecting? That the crew member would leap out to allow him in? I’m sorry, I really doubt that they wouldn’t tell him why he couldn’t use the lavatory, that doesn’t make sense.

    I watch “Airline” and honestly I’d be afraid to fly Southwest after watching that reality show, but I have to side with them on this one.

    • Roclawzi says:

      @noncomjd: Nature of power, rule #3, I have the power, I don’t have to explain. In flight pilot manual release technicians…or rather “flight attendants” are basically harried and harassed all flight long, and many of them develop serious attitude problems, from what I’ve see in my infrequent flying time. Then they are presented with absolute power over the passengers under the horse-is-escaped-close-the-barn-door act, and they get revenge by being abusive with their power. There are approximately 350 ways to handle this situation better, and the fact that the flight attendant didn’t do a better job of handling it indicates that she didn’t want to, not that she couldn’t.

      • noncomjd says:

        @Roclawzi: You are assuming that everything the doctor says is true. I have seen far too often people be wholly unreasonable and see things their only own way. I have been sitting at a gate where one flight had left one the hour, my plane pulled up to the gate 20 minutes later, passengers late for the flight that left on the hour arrived and were irate they weren’t allowed to board my flight (never mind it was not going to the same city as the first flight). By the time the Police arrived, the late passengers claimed the gate crew were screaming, yelling and cursing at them (which they did not) then they claimed the gate crew had manhandled them and were hitting them. Which they did not.

        When people travel they seem to get this bizarre sense of entitlement. The plane should wait for me, oh course I should be able to take this piano and five suit cases with me on board in the cabin, I need this goat with me at all times, it keeps me calm. I travel a lot and I can count on two fingers the times I have seen a flight crew or a gate crew be unreasonable or just wrong. Most times they are pretty good and considering what they have to deal with they do a remarkable job.

        • Roclawzi says:

          @noncomjd: Of course I’m going to assume what he is saying it true. There are plenty of other websites for me to post comments like “FAKE!”. And people do get a bizarre sense of entitlement, but flight attendants are people too, and I’m willing to bet you’ve never been a problem with the flight attendants, too. Happy to sit there quietly and be a perfect passenger. If you haven’t annoyed someone, odds are you get perfect service. No one gets their head bit off for just sitting there calmly!

    • @noncomjd: Ummmm, yeah, this site is called “the consumerist” not “the defend the airlineist” Most consumers are automatically treated guilty by a company when they get poor service, which is why this site exists, ergo most people on this site will take the consumers word over that of the corporation.
      I too have a bit of a problem with the differences in the stories of the good Dr. and the flight attendants. However the fact that: A. The airline hasn’t pulled any other eyewitnesses to back them up and B. The airline sent out $100 coupons to EVERYONE else on the flight (as a means of bribing them perhaps), both make me start to doubt the validity of Southwest’s account. Well that and the fact that airlines in general don’t have a very good track record.

  27. Ein2015 says:

    Yup, Southwest can die. I hope the government doesn’t bail them out if it comes to that. :-

    I personally think that more people need to cover this story… make Southwest take the fire for being so stupid.

  28. zolielo says:

    I did hear, “In the unlikely event that the captain needs to use the restroom; stay in your seat and let them go first. As they need to get back to flying the plane.”

    However this Southwest crew were comics. Later, telling the passengers that they, “love us and our money, personally.”

  29. BelleAmphisbaena says:

    Ever notice the difference in service when flying to Asia? The Asian airlines are much more customer-centric…and when you switch back to domestic, the contrast is quite startling (unfortunately). Let’s not forget the lifetime value of a customer. And the power of word of mouth.

  30. Pylon83 says:

    Closet thing that I can find to this is:

    14 CFR § 121.584 Requirement to view the area outside the flightdeck door.

    From the time the airplane moves in order to initiate a flight segment through the end of that flight segment, no person may unlock or open the flightdeck door unless:

    (a) A person authorized to be on the flightdeck uses an approved audio procedure and an approved visual device to verify that:

    (1) The area outside the flightdeck door is secure, and;

    (2) If someone outside the flightdeck is seeking to have the flightdeck door opened, that person is not under duress, and;

    (b) After the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section have been satisfactorily accomplished, the crewmember in charge on the flightdeck authorizes the door to be unlocked and open.

    It seems that Southwest’s interpretation of this means all passengers in their seats. Depending on how their operations manual is written (which effectively supersedes most of the other FARs, it’s possible that they are indeed required to have all pax in their seats. Problem is, verifying that would require access to their Ops Manual, likely not an easy task. If one was really interested, the FAA has this stuff on file and a FOIA request might get it released.

  31. caj11 says:

    I’m really confused here. So Dr. Madduri, a man, is the one who caused the disruption and they say in the letter that they are sending a voucher to everyone who was on the flight “except, of course, the LADY who caused the disruption”. Whuh? Not only did they apparently send the letter to him by mistake, they got his gender mixed up too. I used to fly Southwest all the time when I lived in other part of the country and usually was pretty happy with them. Southwest doesn’t serve the area where I live now so it really doesn’t matter, but come on Southwest, you’ve been featured on the Consumerist too many times and you disappoint me! You’re supposed to be a model in customer service!

  32. caj11 says:

    Oh I see now. I read the story link and Southwest says they got the gender wrong. Sheesh. Come on Southwest, you can do better!

    Oh, and although I wasn’t there, the whole handcuffing and making him spend overnight in a jail cell sounds awfully harsh. How does this all make for safer air travel?

  33. Roclawzi says:

    Has anyone else had it up to about “here” with the way the skies are getting after the 9/11 attacks? I would bet one of my testicles against an empty tube of chapstick that the last method terrorists would use to next attack the US would be trying to gain control of a plane again. First of all, the airport security is far tighter. Secondly, try to take a plane by force and you will be deafened by the sound of every seatbelt releasing at once as everyone from ages 10 to 90 will be charging you beat you to death. 9/11 was carried out because we were lax in security, and the passengers assumed that they weren’t in danger if they just didn’t get in the way. And lastly, deviation from a flight path at this point would not lead to polite questions from the tower, it would lead to fighter jets shadowing your plane just looking for the right grassy field to shower in debris.

  34. Trai_Dep says:

    It’s got to be test-marketing experiment gone awry. SWA wants to see how much passengers will pay for lavatory privileges.

  35. sodden says:

    The thing that really gets me is why the airlines are wondering why they are losing money. Maybe there is some deliberate plan to drive people away from flying unless you fly first class?

    • theycallmetak says:

      @sodden:

      They’re losing money because fuel costs are through the roof. Oddly, Southwest happens to be the best at fuel hedging which is why they’re one of the few turning a profit.

  36. TechnoDestructo says:

    I think maybe I should run for congress. My platform would consist entirely of making it illegal to invoke 9/11 in any way to defend or explain away the purely internally-directed policies of any company.

  37. Hanzo says:

    Just to echo what a lot of others are saying:

    I fly quite a bit as part of my job, internationally upwards of a dozen times a year, and domestic a fair amount.

    I don’t often fly SouthWest, but I’ve flown them recently, and I can say with absolute certainty I have *never*, *ever* heard the flight crew make any such announcement about the forward galley or cockpit door. And this goes for all airlines, SW included.

    In fact, to the best of my recollection, I’ve only heard a couple of mid-air announcements about passengers congregating in the forward galley.

    • Pylon83 says:

      @Hanzo:
      But you have to remember, Southwest, or any airline for that matter, does not have to inform you of the regulations (laws) in order for you to be charged with breaking them. Ignorance of the law is no defense to criminal charges.

  38. CharlaAgdistis says:

    To be honest, on all the flights I’ve been on, they do not let you approach the front of the plane while the pilot is using the bathroom and even go as far as to put up a gate between the passengers and the front lavatory before they open the door. It’s fairly obvious that they don’t want you there. I think both people in question had a bit of a power trip and refused to listen.

  39. ShubhraPompeii says:

    If you read the letter, it states “I sent a LUV Voucher to every person (except, of course, the lady who caused the disruption) who was onboard your flight.” After looking up Madduri’s picture, it certainly appears he is a male. Is it me or does it seem that SW doesn’t even know the whole story?

  40. HogwartsAlum says:

    I’ve never heard this either. Also, I’ve never even SEEN the flight crew on any flight I’ve been on. ‘Course, I’m always sitting in the back. *eye roll*

    This incident was just wrong. It’s also a symptom of what terrorism actually does. It terrorizes people. So when someone does something that is essentially innocuous, they freak.

  41. Hamtronix says:

    another good reason to forgo flying if at all possible. the treatment of people is appalling.

  42. bbagdan says:

    Cha-ching! Why doesn’t anything this lucky ever happen to me?

  43. OldHack says:

    This is pure bullshit on the part of the flight attendant. First, I don’t believe it’s part of the pre-flight announcement. Second — seriusly — you think he was interfering with the flight, threatening the captain, posing a danger? The guy approached the bathroom twice, and went back to his seat when told to. Obv. he didn’t understand or agree, he argued, but he didn’t keep the captain from going to the lav or going back to the cockpit and sat down when told to. So now arguing with a flight attendant is a federal crime?

  44. lowercase says:

    Seems to me that the real moral of the story is “Don’t plead guilty to something you didn’t do!” At least not right then and there. It may turn out that some kind of plea is the right choice, but it wouldn’t hurt him any to let things settle a week, find a second attorney’s opinion (he is a doctor, right?), and then decide how to proceed.

    By pleading guilty on the spot, even on bad advice, he loses his chance to hear from witnesses and present his side of the story.

    • Egg Yolkeo says:

      @lowercase:

      Yes, I understand part of any defense attorney’s job is to advise the client on his/her options, including accepting a deal and getting it over with.

      But if I were a public defender used to representing Vegas hookers and the like, I would jump ALL OVER this chance to encourage an innocent person to assert his rights.

      • billy says:

        @Egg Yolkeo: Without knowing exactly what the doctor plead guilty to, I find it difficult if not impossible to say that he’s innocent (or guilty for that matter).

        • Egg Yolkeo says:

          @rubinow:

          Fair point. But even if he were completely guilty of the charges, wouldn’t an attorney on retainer encourage him to plead down to a lesser charge, citing his unique circumstances, i.e. the diuretic?

          Most pub def’s are extremely busy. This guy is a doctor and if I were even a bit unsure how to advise him, I’d recommend that he use his doctor salary to fight for his rights.

          • billy says:

            @Egg Yolkeo: It’s possible that the misdemeanor assault charge WAS the lesser charge. I imagine there could be a lot of federal charges that one could bring. There is no mention of those in the articles I’ve seen.

            And it seems to me that the public defender DID give him the options, no matter how lousy they were: plead to a misdemeanor (which can probably be expunged) or fight it…with lots of time and money and without any guarantee of actually winning. Remember, it’s ALWAYS the choice of the accused and not anybody else’s to take the plea.

  45. chartrule says:

    a regulation that everyone must remain seated while the pilot or copilot takes a leek sounds very draconian

  46. The_Legend says:

    Legally, is SWA interfering in a Federal investigation if this guy gets his plea overturned by ponying up the vouchers to all potential witnesses? If I did something I could be civilly liable for and “paid” witnesses, ya think any judge would take that into consideration?

  47. Dillenger69 says:

    One more reason to not fly unless it’s on the company dime.

  48. billy says:

    I posted this on the other board:

    After reading a lot about this, I don’t think this is as cut and dry as most people seem to think it is. Most of the articles about the incident are just repeats of other articles, but there are some which tell a slightly different side…notably, this one: [www.airliners.net]

    According to the article, the doctor gets up to go to the bathroom and is told that he can’t use it while the pilot is out of the flight deck. This is completely reasonable and there are FAA regulations cited in these comments to back it up. Add to that the FAA regulation at 91.3 which gives broad discretion to the way the pilot runs his plane and I don’t see how that can be an issue. I don’t think that anybody would disagree that the pilot’s safety is at utmost importance when he’s piloting a plane.

    Anyway, according to the article, the doctor goes back to his seat until the pilot leaves the lavatory. It’s difficult to say, but according to the attached article, the doctor was approaching the cockpit while the captain was out and while the captain was ostensibly returning to the flight deck. Obviously, to get in the flight deck, he’d have to unsecure and open the door. Again, when this is going on, passengers should absolutely not be approaching the cockpit.

    According to the flight attendant, it was at that time that the doctor tried to push past her. She pushed him back.

    According to the article, the doctor plead to misdemeanor assault. I assume that what that means is that when he tried to push past the attendant, he committed the assault. Note, he didn’t plead to standing in the aisle while the captain was pooping or any other nonsense that other people have spouted on this board.

    Also, note the other articles where it is described that the other passengers applauded the flight crew’s behavior.

    Based on that, I can’t see where SWA was in the wrong here.

    • Roclawzi says:

      @rubinow: Legally in the wrong, possibly not. But only because Air Paranoia is in full effect, and common sense is not invited to the party.

      • billy says:

        @Roclawzi: Common sense dictates that you listen to the flight attendants and don’t try to shove past them when they tell you not to move towards the front of the plane. Too much of the comments are about race and being rude and whatnot. But nobody bothered to figure out what he was arrested for in the first place. It was the shove. Frankly, I don’t think that flight attendants (or anybody else in their workplace) deserves to be shoved. Paranoia didn’t cause the doctor to shove her.

  49. ncc74656m says:

    Disturbing at best, terrifying at worst. I said it before, I’ll say it again. I have no religious or political reasons for wanting to blow up an airplane. I want to do it so I can take out a few of those flight attendants and hurt the company in one shot. Short of the innocents involved, there’s not much reason to the contrary.

    Having been on Delta, Continental, Virgin, and Jet Blue in the past two years, plus multiple “partner” airlines, I’ve NEVER heard this be announced on any of them. I think they use it as an excuse to harass passengers and create artificial problems. Everytime some simpleton gets power, it goes right to their head and they use it to punish everyone they see as having done a minor transgression against them.

  50. RedwoodFlyer says:

    @ everyone saying it’s not in the announcements

    I fly WN quite a bit – enough to hold a companion pass and such, and I agree, they hammer in the fact that you can’t congregate at the front – usually the FA’s say it pre-takeoff, and the pilots repeat it after you clear 10k feet.

    HOWEVER, conveniently enough, on a flight this morning, they slipped in the line about obeying flight attendant requests not to use the forward lavatory when a member of the flight crew is greening up the blue water. That part was definitely delivered in an un-polished, not really rehearsed way.

    I’m usually a huge Southwest supporter, but I can’t help but wonder if the $100 was partially a “bribe” of sorts for the other pax. However, the fact that the pax was a doc could have exacerbated the situation….since in general, doctors are used to being the top cheese, and usually don’t accept “because I said so” as a reason to fulfill a request.

    FWIW, jetBlue and the airline I work for use the food cart to block access to the forward lav area if a member of the flight crew are transiting in/out of the cockpit.

  51. billy says:

    These are the rules about what MUST be said before takeoff: [rgl.faa.gov]

    There is no need to announce to the passengers that they shouldn’t be up and about or moving towards the cockpit when it is unsecured.

  52. Tedicles says:

    Without judging either parties, I think it is fair to say that the flight attendants today have WAAAY too much power. In case they just don’t like someone, or their attitude, they can call the police and FBI to arrest them; while there is no evidence aside from the statement of the attendant. According to this story, there was no investigation of any kind, and the man still had to plead guilty just to get out of the system. Hmmm…remember the good old days when the government worked for the people…me neither!

    Sure, it’s not nice to be an obnoxious a**hole, but it is not against the law (yet…).

  53. azntg says:

    @Overheal: I suck at making sarcastic comments in person. Guess I’m not that much better online either.

    Seriously though, as much as race is a taboo’ed topic here in the United States. It is still a serious issue. As much as people think that times have changed (it did) and racism have dropped dramatically, there’s still a lot of racism to go around.

    Explicit, overt racism has dropped dramatically (you don’t see people saying derogatory terms outright to another person of a different race in the streets as much since the last couple of decades). I doubt anybody can deny that one.

    But more covert, institutionalized racism is still out in full force. Things along the lines of these stereotypes: Middle Eastern looking people should be feared because they will try to hijack and blow up the plane. Blacks should be feared because they will rob you and beat you up. Asians should be feared at the same time because they’re good in academics and will take over our jobs. Not always true for all three of those examples. But it exists. And I strongly doubt that most of you will be able to say with a straight face that you haven’t seen that happening to another person or felt that within yourselves. I, for one, can’t either. But, at least be mindful of that.

    After reading through the story posted on the St. Louis Dispatch and assuming that the story is reasonably close to the truth (you can never get there 100% as the “truth” differs based on the POV), there was clearly a misunderstanding on both sides.

    BOTH were in the wrong (Ignorance of the law isn’t carte blanche for Dr. Madduri and SW continuing to act like total assholes long after the facts are revealed does not help their case either. But overall, given Southwest’s track record with cavalier employees, I’m inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to Dr. Madduri.

    I believe that the race and the physical appearance of Dr. Madduri eventually perpetuated to this monstrous disaster. In my eyes, the fact that passengers on the plane actually congratulated the staff for dealing with this matter only adds to that belief.

    • ubetterwork says:

      @azntg:

      Very well put. Something that is missing from (or only very gently implied in) a lot of these posts is the fact that Dr. Madduri is Indian. People who are ignorant, racist, what have you, look at anybody who is brown (and who doesn’t fit their stereotype of a Latino) and thinks, “terrorist.” The guy is 64 years old, fer crying out loud. If a 64 year old white physician did this, do you think he would have been arrested? No, he probably would have been treated as a cranky old man who really had to pee.

      The $100 coupons to the OTHER passengers really gall me. That’s like Southwest saying, “sorry you white people had to deal with the stress of a brown man being up near the lavatories while the pilot got situated back in the cockpit.”

  54. turtledude558 says:

    I just flew with Southwest over the summer and they NEVER had any mention of a person not being allowed to get up while the captain was in the restroom.

    I thought Southwest was one of the last good airlines, but it seems like they’re not (I now feel that they are racist based on what I’ve heard from this and the previous post). I’ll be sure to choose competitors over Southwest now, though not United, US Airways, Delta, or American Airlines.

    JetBlue, Northwest, and Continental for me!

    Too bad, I liked Southwest too…

  55. ubetterwork says:

    Very well put. Something that is missing from (or only very gently implied in) a lot of these posts is the fact that Dr. Madduri is Indian. People who are ignorant, racist, what have you, look at anybody who is brown (and who doesn’t fit their stereotype of a Latino) and thinks, “terrorist.” The guy is 64 years old, fer crying out loud. If a 64 year old white physician did this, do you think he would have been arrested? No, he probably would have been treated as a cranky old man who really had to pee.

    The $100 coupons to the OTHER passengers really gall me. That’s like Southwest saying, “sorry you white people had to deal with the stress of a brown man being up near the lavatories while the pilot got situated back in the cockpit.”

  56. ubetterwork says:

    I meant to direct my comments to azntg.

  57. Skater009 says:

    I would have shit my pants .

  58. Matthew Dillon says:

    If there is indeed a law requiring all passengers be in their seats when a crew member is out of the cockpit, I have never heard it, and I have flown many flights on Southwest and American (over 100 flights).

    Furthermore, I would think that to enforce that rule, the “fasten seat belt” sign would have to be illuminated and the cabin crew verify that no passenger is out of their seat before the officer left the cockpit.

    While I was not on this flight, and apparently no other passengers have come forth to testify for or against this man, it would seem to me that a flight crew member was having a bad day and decided to take it out on someone he didn’t like.