They Turned My Flight Around For A Sick Stewardess

An anonymous reader says her U.S. Airways flight 798 from Philadelphia to Amsterdam gave her a shorter round trip than she bargained for. The pilot turned the plane around over the Atlantic because a stewardess felt under the weather. She writes:

Apparently, a stewardess on our flight wasn’t “feeling well” and 2 hours into the flight across the Atlantic from Philadelphia to Amsterdam, the pilot decided to turn the plane around and head back to Philadelphia so that she could receive medical attention.

By all accounts, this woman was totally mobile, conscious, and asymptomatic. Needless to say, we were all very upset and disappointed with the pilot’s judgment and course of action. I suspect he was afraid of litigation had he not returned the plane. It was absurd. Has it come to this?

Presumably the pilot was only following procedure, but the experience must have been frustrating for the passengers.

I asked U.S. Airways to explain, but got this stonewalling from spokeswoman Rica Lyons:

Dear Mr. Villarreal;

This letter is to acknowledge receipt of your recent correspondence to Customer Relations at US Airways.

Our records indicate that you were not a listed passenger on Flight #798 on November 29th, 2009. Regretfully, we are not able to provide information in regards to your inquiries, as they are considered confidential.

Thank you for allowing me to explain our position and to clarify this matter. Thank you for contacting Customer Relations at US Airways.

The anonymous tipster said she and her flying mates received no compensation for what turned out to be a 5-hour delay — two hours to fly back, then an hour on the tarmac.

Have you ever been on a plane that’s had to turn around in mid-flight?


Edit Your Comment

  1. bornonbord says:

    Maybe the pilot really hates that stewardess, and wanted to make an ass out of her. So, when she complained of ‘not feeling well’ he went ‘by the book’ and turned the plane around.

    • PølάrβǽЯ says:

      Yeah, screw 100+ people over because of a grudge with one woman. That’ll show her!

      And stewardess? I thought that was akin to calling a black person “colored” these days.

      • bornonbord says:

        I dunno, there are some people I work with I’d be willing to screw 1,000+ people over just to get fired.

        Stewardess is only offensive if it was a dude. Then it should be steward. Flight attendant is no longer PC, as “Cabin Crew” makes it seem like they do actual work.

        All of the second paragraph is sarcasm.

      • cmdr.sass says:

        steward/stewardess is still an acceptable and widely used description of the job.

      • tbax929 says:

        I’m pretty sure “colored” is a lot more egregious and offense than “stewardess”. But I’m not a flight attendant, so I could be wrong. Maybe we could ask a black flight attendant…

  2. ModerateOne says:

    A 5 hour delay sucks but is not unreasonable when it comes to someones health.

  3. Esquire99 says:

    Would the passengers have expected compensation if the pilot turned the plane around because of a sick passenger? While I certainly understand the frustration, I am bothered by the constant expectation of compensation for any and every little delay or inconvenience. It’s air travel; delays happen, unexpected events happen. All of the passengers ultimately go to their destination, and given the cost of turning the plane around and an extra 4 hours of flight time, I suspect the airline already paid a hefty price for the delay. At what point are people able to just realize that things don’t always work out as expected and learn to “go with the flow?” This isn’t a case where they turned the plane around for some absurd reason, like to retrieve the pilot’s hat. A person on the airplane was sick. The pilot had to make a judgment call as to whether it was better to keep flying and potentially have a serious emergency develop when they are even further from an airport, or to inconvenience everyone slightly and ensure that the woman was taken care of.

    • aficionado says:

      I have to agree.

      It’s not like you aren’t in a 150 ton aluminum can with 80 tons of thrust strapped to it being punted across the ocean 5 miles up at 550 miles per hour in an environment that would kill you in very short order.

      It used to take people months to make the journey that’s going to take you less than 7 hours. Get over yourselves, passengers of US Airways Flight #798.

    • subtlefrog says:

      I often disagree with you, but I am 100% with you on this one. The passengers may have had no idea how bad off a flight attendant was – I would even guess they are trained to not let passengers know there is a situation so as not to incite panic. As others point out, we have too little information to really be too critical of the decisions made by the crew.

      • qcgallus says:

        I like the fact that we both had to qualify that we usually don’t agree with Esquire99.

      • floraposte says:

        Yes, I’m quite surprised that the OP seems to be taking the situation at face value. (And it’s not like she could tell if the FA was asymptomatic or not, but honestly, by definition, she’s not asymptomatic if she’s not feeling well.) They’re going to want to keep passenger unease down and protect the privacy of the FA, rather than say “high fever and massive abdominal pain” to a planeful of people.

        Turning back beats a layover in Iceland.

    • qcgallus says:

      I mean no offense at all by this, but I usually don’t agree at all with what you say. So you can imagine my surprise when alas! I agree with you here. The fact is that these passengers would NOT be compensated for any delay caused by a passenger (anyone remember the drunk scotsman story?), and yes, I agree that being that’s the case, they shouldn’t expect any here. In fact an argument could easily be made that with H1N1 hot on everyone’s mind, it was in the passengers’ best interest to land and let the flight attendant off. I’m sure it’s airline regulation to do this, especially now with the “pandemic” of swine flu. They would be expecting compensation if a sick flight attendant gave several passengers an illness, and they’re expecting it when US Air takes precaution to not have this happen. A lose-lose for US Air.

      Frustrating? Sure! No doubt. If I were the pilot, I’d be pretty livid that she either waited until we were in the air to bring this up, or the decision was delayed to return until we were in the air.

      “Has it come to this?” I assume the OP meant to avoid litigation? It’s been this way for quite a while. So has it come to this? No. It is “this.”

      • Esquire99 says:

        No offense taken. I plainly recognize that my opinions aren’t always the most popular on here.

        • trujunglist says:

          correction: never popular. what constitutes the description “little” in regards to a 5 hour delay? I consider a little delay to be like 30 minutes.

    • FatLynn says:

      Agreed. The OP ignores the fact that the flight attendant’s top responsibility is the safety of the passengers. If she was not feeling well enough to perform her safety-related duties, it could have put many people at risk.

      • lannister80 says:

        Yeah, she might have been unable to do the seatbelt safety dance! Oh noes!

        Seriously, what important things to flight attendants do on a flight besides serve drinks?

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          When there’s an emergency in the cabin or in the cockpit, it’s up to the flight attendants to keep people calm. They know the emergency procedures, like how to open escape hatches properly, how to open emergency items. First aid and CPR are also on the list of things they are trained to do. Don’t deride flight attendants because you haven’t been in an emergency situation.

        • citrusfa says:

          To people like you, I’d like to point out that the flight attendants sit closest to the door. If we really hate you, we can be the first ones out the door and let you evacuate yourself.

    • The Marionette says:

      Everywhere you go someone’s going to expect compensation for something minor. I work at a movie theater and although our hotdogs are fully cooked (this is a pun reference to the fully cooked turkey article) we have to still “cook” them again until they reach a certain temperature. Well, on our slow days we don’t cook many because not many people buy them and at the end of the night it goes into the loss count. A couple asked for 2 hotdogs, there was one ready, the other needed about 5 minutes. After the 5 mins I made the other one, gave them to them and asked if they could get a free large popcorn for their wait. Yes… they were being serious.

      The point is, that was something very minor. It wasn’t like I said “I’ll make the other hotdog when I feel like it”, I was just going by what we were trained to do as far as the hotdogs go, to cook them until they’re a certain temp. And because of that they wanted a free LARGE popcorn, and trust me those large popcorns have quite a lot in them and there’s free refills.

      There’s other tales of olde I have, but that was just one of the recent problems that came up.

    • aparsons says:

      Why wouldn’t we expect compensation? Anytime we, the consumers misstep, a company is looking to penalize us in some way – raise the interest rate, charge a late fee, or a re-booking fee, or an itinerary fee, baggage fees, extra baggage fees, overweight baggage fees, fees for blankets, pillows, and an extra 3 inches of leg room, or a fuel surcharge fee. You better believe I’m going to try and recoup some of those costs at the slightest hint of dissatisfaction.

    • aparsons says:

      Why wouldn’t we expect compensation? Anytime we, the consumers misstep, a company is looking to penalize us in some way – raise the interest rate, charge a late fee, or a re-booking fee, or an itinerary fee, baggage fees, extra baggage fees, overweight baggage fees, fees for blankets, pillows, and an extra 3 inches of leg room, or a fuel surcharge fee. You better believe I’m going to try and recoup some of those costs at the slightest hint of dissatisfaction.

      • Esquire99 says:

        I don’t see how the airline mis-stepped, so your analogy is flawed.

        • aparsons says:

          I was replying specifically to:

          “While I certainly understand the frustration, I am bothered by the constant expectation of compensation for any and every little delay or inconvenience. It’s air travel; delays happen, unexpected events happen. All of the passengers ultimately go to their destination, and given the cost of turning the plane around and an extra 4 hours of flight time, I suspect the airline already paid a hefty price for the delay. At what point are people able to just realize that things don’t always work out as expected and learn to “go with the flow?””

          The airlines themselves aren’t held to the same standards. And this was a stewardess that was sick. If she was sick, either handle it on the plane, or be a responsible employee and don’t come into work, thereby inconveniencing us all. I’d accept delays and mild inconveniences if it weren’t for the fact that airlines were imposing fees for everything possible, and then acting like they’re doing you some gigantic favor by getting you from point A to point B.

          Branson nailed it when it said that airlines should just start from scratch:

    • Jevia says:

      In regards to compensation, I have to wonder about connecting flights. What if passengers missed those flights because of the 5 hour delay and as a result couldn’t get another connecting flight until the next day? Would US Airways foot the bill for a hotel room and other expenses overnight?

    • Gorbachev says:

      Uh, what?

      I’m paying for certain level of service when I fly. Regardless of reason, if it takes 5 hours more than expected, I’m not getting that level of service. Why exactly is it unreasonable to be compensated for that?

    • Lowcifur says:

      Five hours is not a “minor delay”. Show up five hours late to work or school and tell me how well it goes over.

      Besides, a five hour delay on one flight can easily compound into much greater delays later on.

      For example, when I was returning from Korea, one of my later flights was unable to take off due to an issue on the runway (the pilot said Air Force One was landing there, but I don’t know if he was joking or not). This was about an hour-long delay, but it resulted in a scheduling conflict when we arrived at the next airport. Due to the scheduling conflict, we were kept in the air too long and had to detour to a *different* airport to land for refueling. Then, we were able to finally take off and return to our original destination (which was staying open late, just for us).

      I had started the timer function on my watch when my first flight started to back away from the terminal (I was curious, and too lazy to mess with different time zones), and stopped it when the last flight landed. All told, I was stuck on airplanes for a few minutes shy of 24 hours. The opposite direction took about 16 hours (with the same number of connecting flights).

      What I’m getting at is that a 3 hour delay in one of the last flights wound up costing me about 8 hours, total. What if that 3 hour delay had been on the first flight? What sort of amazing cluster**** would that have turned into?

  4. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    On a flight from Atlanta to Pensacola we had to turn around after they believed that the gear was not functioning properly. Believe you me it was the MOST stressful landing I’ve ever experienced. Everyone was dead silent and we all clapped when we landed.

    The guy sitting next to me was spitting livid though – he was an airplane mechanic for the airforce and he insisted there was nothing wrong.

    It was about a 2 hour delay all told, but they had a plane waiting for us on the tarmac and we were off again within 30 minutes of landing. Delta did good that day.

    • aficionado says:

      “On a flight from Atlanta to Pensacola we had to turn around after they believed that the gear was not functioning properly.”

      It was either a shimmy or a faulty indicator lamp.

    • Chmeeee says:

      I don’t see how turning around improves the situation for potentially faulty landing gear. If it’s broken, you’re hosed no matter where you land. Why not keep going and at least land/crash in the right place, as opposed to landing/crashing right back where you started?

      • aficionado says:

        It mainly depends on the type of fault and the capability of the airport.

        If the gear fails down, you are probably not going to make the destination with the fuel load allotted because of the increased drag and maximum speed the plane can fly with the gear down.

        A failure with the gear up and you want the longest runway you can get. The idea would be to come at normal to slightly slower speed and flare (flare is when you let the airplane settle right at stall above the ground [

        Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International has a runway that is 11,150 feet long. (9L-27R I think)

      • LastError says:

        Atlanta is Delta’s HQ and major maintenance hub. They prefer to fix their planes there whenever possible.

    • CheritaChen says:

      But…Atlanta to Pensacola? That couldn’t be more than a 90 minute flight to begin with, could it? Unless they had just taken off, I can see why passengers would be put out by having such a flight interrupted if they believed it didn’t need to be.

  5. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    Way too little real information to even consider making a judgment on this. And the term “stewardess” was left behind years ago.

  6. Dirtylicious says:

    Eh, I don’t see the issue.. How does the OP know how sick the flight attendant was or wasn’t?

    If the OP was having symptoms of say..chest pains/angina.. how much complaining would there be if the Pilot didn’t turn the flight around?

  7. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    By all accounts, this woman was totally mobile, conscious, and asymptomatic.

    Wow. I didn’t know it was possible to diagnose someone using only second-hand accounts of people who only looked at the person. Why are we wasting all this money on doctors and medical degrees when all we have to do is LOOK at each other? After all, there’s no such thing as a medical condition that doesn’t display visible symptoms, am I right?

    • 47ka says:

      Yup, hypertension is a LIE.

    • aficionado says:

      Don’t you watch House?

    • Anne Boleyn says:

      See: Miranda Richardson.

      Seriously – folks can be fucked up and you wouldn’t even know it from looking at them.

    • Daemon Xar says:

      Umm . . . doesn’t stop Bill Frist.

    • Cantras says:

      Yarly. I had some serious food poisoning a few days ago. 10pm, feeling meh. 1 am, “not feeling well”, 2 am, sacrificing to porcelain god. My husband and I were both laid up the entire next day (him two days, but he had had a lot more of the offending pizza). I would not have made a good flight attendant.

      If they were almost there, that’d be one thing, but I’m guessing that’s a 6-7 hour flight.

      It’s possible they already knew no-one had a connecting flight to catch out of Amsterdam (that’s one thing where they tend to be organised, telling us in the last few minutes of flight where our gates are, that X flight has been missed please go to counter to rebook, that Z flight people need to book it so please sit and let them get out first) — compensation would be nice, but I’d say I’ve definitely had worse, and if they didn’t miss a connecting flight…

  8. KlausKinsky says:

    I don’t get it. Who is the anonymous tipster? The same one posing as Mr. Villarreal who wasn’t on the flight?

    • bairdwallace says:

      Phil Villarreal is the associate editor who wrote this story for consumerist. His photo is in the column on the right. The anonymous tipster was on the flight.

    • floraposte says:

      And then Phil followed up with an inquiry to the airline, which wouldn’t answer him because he wasn’t on the flight himself.

  9. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    They had better receive compensation. Where’s this passenger bill of rights we’ve been promised. The group should not be responsible for any one person, passenger or staff member, and an airline needs to compensate the rest of the passengers.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      So, the airline should have to pay compensation for something for which they really can’t be blamed? It’s not like management told her “get sick, so we can turn the flight around.”

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Compensation would be given for nearly any other industry to major delays like this. Getting food, hotel stays.

        Too often airlines treat customers like crap and do nothing. Do you not remember the recent fines against an airline for leaving passengers on the airplanes for over 6 hours?

        Maybe this isn’t a situation where they all deserve free flights and vouchers, but I would hope they at least offered some complimentary drinks, put on a movie, and tried to make the delay enjoyable to the passengers. I doubt they did. Compensation doesn’t always mean money.

        • Esquire99 says:

          Your assertion that compensation would be given in “nearly every other industry” for delays like this is total BS. Lets go down the list:

          Healthcare – A 5-10 hour wait at the doctor never results in “compensation”

          Legal – a 3-5 hour wait for a hearing at the courthouse never results in “compensation”

          Technology – a long hold time for support almost never results in “compensation”

          Utilities – A delay in having something repaired by your utility rarely results in “compensation” beyond not being charged for service you didn’t receive.

          Retail – A long checkout line rarely results in “compensation,” nor does a delay in receiving a product ordered

          Further, when did a simple apology stop being enough?

          • qcgallus says:

            “Further, when did a simple apology stop being enough?”

            When the era of someone’s word meaning anything came to an end.

            • Esquire99 says:

              I’m not sure it’s that as much as it is when people realized they could instead try to extract money for their “inconvenience.” In many cases, it’s not much more than greed.

          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            Skipping everything and going to your last question: Because it’s tough to swallow an apology from someone who clearly doesn’t care about you. Because it’s tough to swallow an apology from someone who keeps making the same and similar mistakes and keeps apologizing. At some point, you gain a callous for these kinds of apologies.

          • MMD says:

            Your examples don’t match up with the incident in question, though.

            Healthcare – A 5-10 hour wait at the doctor never results in “compensation”

            – If you’re waiting 5-10 hours for a doctor, it’s probably at the emergency room, where people who are worse off than you are get treated first. A long wait sucks, but in this case is largely unavoidable.

            Legal – a 3-5 hour wait for a hearing at the courthouse never results in “compensation”

            – A courthouse is not a service industry, so that one’s irrelevant.

            Technology – a long hold time for support almost never results in “compensation”

            – Right, but I have discretion over whether I’m going to wait on hold now or wait and call back at a less busy time.

            Utilities – A delay in having something repaired by your utility rarely results in “compensation” beyond not being charged for service you didn’t receive.

            – Which is why you can’t make a true “appointment time” with a utility company and have to accept a window with no guarantees. It sucks, but at least they’re upfront about not making promises. Oh, and you can get compensation from some homeowners insurance policies if a power outage lasts so long that the food in your fridge goes bad.

            Retail – A long checkout line rarely results in “compensation,” nor does a delay in receiving a product ordered

            – But I can choose to stand in that line or not. And I’ve had several experiences with online retailers refunding shipping costs to me after shipping was delayed. I had to ask for it, but I got it.

            The key thing here is that when a consumer chooses to pay for a service and that service is compromised, there should be compensation. Erring on the side of caution when the health of a passenger is in question is probably not a bad thing, but turning a flight around should not be taken lightly; the needs of the individual must be balanced with the needs of the group.

            Once a plane takes off on time, passengers have a resonable expectation that they’ll arrive at their destination on time. The passengers paid for a service that was significantly delayed due to a judgment call made by the pilot – the passengers had no choice but to go along for the ride. When airline employees make decisions that result in significant delays for passengers, I don’t think some sort of compensation is unreasonable.

            • Esquire99 says:

              I disagree. All of your rebuttals are based on “choice.” When you choose to travel by air, you are making a choice to fly via a transportation method that a reasonable person knows is prone to many types of delays and unforeseen events. Just because the plane took off on time is no guarantee that it will arrive on time. Air travel is not a science; even the best airlines cannot predict all of the types of delays, and the traveling public knows (or should know) this. The fact a delay occurred, even if the delay was due to a decision made by the pilot, does not automatically entitle one to compensation. In fact, I don’t think a delayed flight is necessarily a “compromise of service.” If you buy a plane ticket under the impression that you are absolutely going to take off on time and absolutely going to arrive on time, you’re simply an unreasonable person. Even private air travel isn’t that consistent.

        • qcgallus says:

          Your example pertains not to a passenger’s well-being. The “compensation” here is, as one already pointed out, that they got to their destination AND that they don’t have a possibly harmful infection.

          Free drinks are never a bad thing though.

    • aficionado says:

      Their compensation was that they still got to their destination.

    • Esquire99 says:

      While my general attitude is similar to yours here (people are only responsible for themselves) when it comes to general welfare, I certainly draw a line here. You really want to put a corporation in the position of having to decide to either potentially save a person’s life/health and have to pay out a bunch of money to everyone else because of the “inconvenience” or continue the flight and “hope” that the person isn’t too sick? Give me a break. These people are owed nothing more than ultimate delivery to their destination. To expect compensation in situations that are wholly beyond the airlines control is greed, pure and simple. The airline didn’t cause her to get sick; the pilot had to make a decision based on the health of a person on his plane and there shouldn’t be “punishment” for such.

    • Kitamura says:

      No offense, but lets say the flight attendant had contracted ebola or something and they decided to keep flying to avoid having to pay “compensation”. You can bet your ass they’d be paying a totally different type of compensation after something like that.

      While it would be generous to put forward something, I hardly think it’s required in this instance. The only people who should really be “compensated” are people who ended up missing any connecting flight, at which point they should be rebooked for the next one they can get.

      This isn’t a case of a plane sitting on a runway for hours on end because of some ridiculous airline policy or rule with no food or drink and flooding toilets. We don’t really have sufficient information to say the reason was frivolous or not. I mean, I can see how there may be a problem if the flight attendant only had a mild headache or something, but we don’t know. It could have been life threatening. There’s enough things out there that can kill you while on the outside the person looks perfectly fine that it’s difficult to just write this off as non-critical.

  10. Sepp_TB says:

    I was on a plane that had to land early because of a sick flight attendant. Flying from South Carolina to Las Vegas, we had to land in New Mexico because a flight attendant got sick. Her leaving brought the plane under the minimum requirement to fly, and we had to wait for a replacement. However, the airport we landed at was not a hub for the airline we were on (I honestly don’t remember which), and we had to wait 2 hours for an attendant to drive over from her hotel at a different airport so we could resume our flight. The flight attendant in my case certainly seemed ill, and had to be carried off the plane and immediately loaded into an ambulance. No passenger seemed to upset over the whole matter, the loaded up another movie for us while we waited and handed out free drinks.

  11. etz says:

    Couldn’t they stop off in Bangor or Halifax or some such place? That’s what they usually do with the rowdy drunks.

    At two hours out of PHL, they must have been pretty close to those cities.

    • aficionado says:

      She couldn’t bear the risk of government controlled healthcare.

    • tsukiotoshi says:

      Bangor doesn’t have government controlled healthcare if you are talking about Bangor, Maine (United States, not Canada as popular belief seems to indicate) and not Bangor, Ireland.

      We do see a lot of rowdy passengers come our way, though!

    • LastError says:

      The landing fees are much higher at Bangor or the other “convenient” diverts. Plus they would not have a spare crew person on the ground there. By returning, they got a new crewperson* right away.

      *There’s nothing wrong with stewardess. It’s just somewhat archaic. It would be better if we used the British pronunciation which is steward-ess, like countess. It actually sounds elegant.

  12. Tim says:

    Didn’t a pilot recently die on a plane, and the co-pilot kept flying to the destination?

    Phil, you probably should have contacted media relations at US Airways. It’s stupid to say that everything that happens on a flight is “confidential,” because if you’re willing to discuss it with passengers, that’s not confidential at all. But you might get a better response with media relations.

  13. npage148 says:

    I sorry you got delayed for a little bit while the health of another human was at stake. Next time maybe they should just push her out over the ocean. Have a little compassion and unless you are a medial professional who examined the attendant, I don’t think you are qualified to comment of the extent and severity of her illness. If you were sick and needed medical attention would you want to return the 2 hours back to philly or be forced to sit there, suffer, and possible degrade to a serious level for the 6 hours until you land in Amsterdam

    • tbax929 says:

      “Maybe they should push her out into the ocean”. That was the funniest thing I’ve read today. Great response!

  14. yesteraeon says:

    Depending on the specifics, which are obviously totally absent from the story as of now, this seems totally reasonable. Let’s remember that the flight attendants aren’t just there to serve us drinks, they are there to ensure the safety of passengers (especially if things go badly wrong). Like the copilot, engine number 4, and the backup hydraulic system, you COULD continue the flight without one, but it’s not a good idea for anyone.

  15. He says:

    If Phil is your nickname and not legal name that’s probably why they think you didn’t take that flight.

    • valueofaloonie says:

      Um…Phil didn’t take the flight. Phil Villarreal is the author of the article, not the anonymous reader who was on the flight.

  16. Swifty says:

    Have I ever been on a plane that’s had to turn around in mid-flight?

    Why…yes I have.

    US Airways, nonetheless.

  17. madanthony says:

    So insurance companies using facebook pics to deny compensation is bad, but airline passengers deciding how sick an employee is by looking at her is OK?

  18. theSuperman says:

    I disagree with the OPs assumptions. How did the OP know the flight attendant was asymptomatic? Did they perform a diagnosis on the flight attendant? It could have been that the flight attendant was complaining of chest pain or numbness on one side of the body, which are signs of a heart attack or a stroke, respectively. If this was happening to a passenger and the pilot did not turn around on a long journey over the ocean and the passenger later died, there would be a huge lawsuit. And there would be great outrage that the pilot did not turn around. So why should anyone be angry that the pilot was being careful about the flight attendants health?

  19. comeongob says:

    I have sympathy for the passengers, but I’m sure they had to follow procedures by the book because of the safety of everyone on board.

    Let’s say the flight encountered some sort of problem later in the flight. If the flight attendant would have been too sick to help assist passengers, putting them in danger, people would be outraged. Sorry, when it comes to health of not just the flight attendent, but the safety of everyone on board, five hours out of your life is worth it.

  20. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    The important detail here, I think, is that the flight was from Philadelphia to Amsterdam, and that the plane was over the Atlantic. Depending on where they were over the Atlantic, it’s possible they were still a lot closer to Philadelphia than they were to the next airport they could have made a landing at, like Heathrow. If the pilot thinks that a person’s medical situation may get worse, he or she has the discretion to decide whether to turn back or find an alternate airport in which to make a landing. If the plane was closer to Philly than to the next available airport, and it seemed as if perhaps the patient’s situation would potentially worsen, it totally makes sense.

    And this anonymous tipster, unless he or she is a medical doctor, cannot properly ascertain a patient’s status. After all, feeling under the weather could mean a case of the sniffles, or the oncoming symptoms of a norovirus. Just because I’m not coughling loudly right now, doesn’t mean I don’t cough, and it doesn’t mean that cough isn’t potentially a harbinger for what could escalate to being a full-blown medical problem.

    Philly to Amsterdam is a pretty long flight. I get why the pilot turned around.

    • kateblack says:

      I totally agree.

      If any of the passengers were feeling sick & recognized it as something worthy of a hospital visit, the pilot should have turned around. That should be no different for a member of the flight crew.

      Also, 5 hours of delay is a lot for a short domestic flight. Relatively speaking, a 5 hour delay for transatlantic service is not so heinous.

  21. pot_roast says:

    “By all accounts, this woman was totally mobile, conscious, and asymptomatic”

    As a ff/emt, it annoys me to no end when people who probably have no medical training whatsoever say stuff like this. Commercial aircraft have the ability to contact physicians on the ground. Northwest Airlines uses (used to, anyway) the Mayo Clinic. I’m not familiar with US Airways policy about this, but they probably have the flight crew contact their medical control with whatever information they have about the situation before making the determination on whether or not to turn around. And yes, I have assisted with an in-flight medical emergency before. (Northwest gave me a couple vouchers for a free in flight snack box or 500 worldperks miles. heh.)

    And what’s with airline passengers expecting monetary compensation for unavoidable delays anyway? Darn entitlement babies. :|

    • MMD says:

      A weather delay is unavoidable. This was a judgment call by the airline.

      • Snockered says:

        Weather delays are a judgement call too. In both cases, a decision is made that it is unsafe to continue the flight as planned.

      • citrusfa says:

        Actually, this was most likely a judgement call from the pilot, the flight attendant in question, and a team of medical professionals on the ground. I can guarantee there was a lengthy discussion between all three parties as to the best course of action for that particular circumstance.

    • kateblack says:

      Thank you for doing what you do.

      And for the reminder that sometimes, professionals really do know best.

    • newsbunny says:

      Agreed. For all you know, she had a epileptic seizure. I have epilepsy, and I can have a seizure with no one around me knowing anything is wrong.

      Anything could have happened. In old post here, a store’s refusal to allow a woman with Crohn’s disease to use their bathroom resulted in people saying ‘be a fucking human’.

      A woman was sick. A judgement call was made. These passengers are not the sun; the earth does not revolve around them. Be a fucking human.

  22. SkuldChan says:

    That is kind of odd – 2 hours out your talking only another 4 hours until they would have arrived in Amsterdam anyhow where she could have been rushed to the hospital. Would that extra two hours really have mattered unless she was feeling really ill? By the account the stewardess was up and about – they could have made her lie down for the remainder of the flight to compensate for the extra time.

    I only mention that for anyone who hasn’t done the flight… (its not a real long trip).

  23. Admiral_John says:

    I imagine Philadelphia to Amsterdam is a long flight… eight hours or so? Imagine the last time you woke up in the morning with a tickle in your throat and by the end of the day (or quicker) you had a full-blown flu. Maybe that’s what happened here.

  24. PsiCop says:

    They were 2 hours from the US and 3 from Amsterdam, so they turned around? If the stewardess could wait 2 hours, why not wait 3 and just get to the destination? What an asinine decision.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      You’re totally not getting it. It’s either two hours or three, and in between is that one hour that could make the difference. You can’t land in the middle of the Atlantic, so your options are two hours or three. In that case, if the situation calls for it, you choose two because you don’t know whether a person can wait three.

      • PsiCop says:

        You’re assuming that hour could have made a difference. But that’s an something that’s not yet evident. If the stewardess wasn’t visibly sick and was not being sequestered or anything, that strongly suggests quite the opposite … that she wasn’t at death’s door and that hour would not have made a difference.

        Here’s the point: Unless there’s more to this story than we know, it doesn’t look as though the airline and its pilot made a rational decision. But the airline refuses to disclose what made it make this decision. Was the stewardess in peril? It might be so, but the airline ought to disclose that. By dodging questions they’re implying that the decision they made might have been a rash one.

        As for not compensating passengers, that’s par for the course for an industry that views human beings as cattle whom they can abuse at will and then act all sanctimonious when people ask them what the heck they were thinking of when they decided to treat people like cattle whom they can abuse at will.

  25. VA_White says:

    I just checked the calendar and it’s 2009. Your flight attendant was ill. Your stewardess retired about the same time they killed the ERA.

  26. feckingmorons says:

    So she could walk, perhaps she had a seizure in the bathroom and had never had a seizure before. Perhaps she had frank vaginal bleeding and recenlty became pregnant. Perhaps she had a blood sugar of 444 and recently changed the meds used to manage her diabetes.

    Screw you for wanting to know her medical problem. It is none of your business.

  27. Brazell says:

    I’ve been in a plane that turned around mid-flight because they couldn’t presurize the cabin. All of the soda cans in the back exploded… it was weird. So they turned us around, landed, delaye like 4 – 6 hours and then we flew home… but I didn’t expect compensation… Shit happens.

    In this case, I think the OP/writer is selfish. The person is sick. Perhaps it’s more serious than “under the weather,” which arguably NO pilot would turn around a trans-atlantic flight for. She could have been seriously ill but the pilot downplayed her illness over the loudspeaker.

  28. Hogan1 says:

    Unless the OP was a medical professional who had access to the flight attendant and was able to diagnose her condition in a professional manner she should not be making pure assumptions as to the condition of the attendant. It’s the pilot’s responsibility to land the plane if a passenger or crew member may require medical attention; regardless of whether it inconveniences other passengers. But alas; people being as they are will complain to the ends of the earth about it. It’s not the Airlines fault; it’s simply life. Crap happens; live with it.

    In any case you actually have to have a minimum number of “functioning” flight attendants in order to conduct flight operations. This is mandated by the FAA and varies based on the aircraft. If the illness prevented the flight attendant from performing her duties this may have brought the plane below the minimum in which case it’s essentially required to land.

    As for the statement from US Airways; there was no “stonewalling” here. It’s standard for airlines not to comment on specific flight issues unless you were a passenger. The story is really a non event and I don’t really consider it worthy of a post here…

  29. almightytora says:

    I would complain to US Airways to get some sort of compensation.

    I complained about a 90 minute delay (crew didn’t arrive on time was the airline’s excuse) and I still got a voucher for a future flight.

  30. Rachacha says:

    The question is, was the flight attendant a little sick (congested sinus, headache, or slight sore throat), moderately sick (light headed, fever, vomiting etc.), or extremely sick (heart pain or respritory distress).

    Remember that a flight attendant’s primary job function is safety of the pasengers, serving food an beverages, and making the passenger comfortable is a secondary job function. If a flight attendant was ill enough that she would not be able to perform her safety functions, then you need to land and find a suitable replacement. Now if the flight attendant had a headache, suck it up, take an asprin, and lay down for a while (hopefully your co-workers would pick up the slack), but if you have the beginning symptoms of the flu you will likely not be able to perform your job functions.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I agree, we don’t have enough information. But, I will say that sometimes, without being able to know precisely what the problem is, it would be safer to turn around if you were closer to point A than point B.

      Time would be of the essence if it meant someone could die because you don’t have information to suggest one way or the other. Say you are two hours into the flight and a person is coughing badly. It could be irritation in the throat, it could be something else. But without being a doctor, you wouldn’t be able to tell. But if you keep going instead of turning around, and half an hour later, the person starts coughing blood…well, you’re now half an hour farther away than you were previously, and that half hour could be the difference between a person who receives emergency medical care, and someone who dies.

      The point is, you just don’t know if you don’t have the information you need. Sometimes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  31. morganlh85 says:

    I would need more info about what “not feeling well” really means. Stuffy nose? Upset stomach? I really don’t give an eff. Short of acute appendicitis, I don’t see any reason to turn a plane around for one person.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      So would I. There’s a big difference between ‘I don’t feel so hot right now’/communicable-but-mild-illness and ‘If medical help isn’t received in [x] amount of time, this will become an emergency situation for me (and possibly others)’.

  32. ben says:

    There are two issues here.

    1) Should the pilot have turned the plane around? That’s completely up to the pilot’s discretion. (Obviously in accordance with airline policies and federal regulations, etc.) Regardless of the passenger’s expert medical diagnosis, if the pilot decided it was in the flight attendant’s and the passengers’ best interest to return, then that’s his call. I’m sure it’s not a decision he made lightly.

    2) Should the passengers receive compensation? I’m not totally against that idea. It might have been an unavoidable situation in that the flight attendant didn’t choose to get sick, but still, the airline is responsible for getting the passengers to their destination within a reasonable amount of time. I don’t know that they should be required to compensate the passengers, but giving them something would definitely would be a nice gesture.

  33. MaximusMMIV says:

    I fail to see how information about a flight is confidential. That’s a pretty lame excuse.

  34. PhiTauBill says:

    US Airways “Thank you for allowing me to explain our position and to clarify this matter.”

    Wait, what exactly did they clarify?

    I love when CSRs fail to think about the boilerplate in their letters.

  35. halo969 says:

    For those asking why the flight attendant couldn’t have waited for medical attention once they reached their destination – all other reasons previously mentioned aside, would YOU want to be taken to a hospital in a foreign country and then still have to worry about getting home? If she was sick, she’d need to go home after seeing a doctor.

  36. The Cynical Librarian says:

    The first time I was ever supposed to fly anywhere, I was ten years old and scared to death. On top of my fear of dying in a fiery crash, the plane we were supposed to be taking was having mechanical problems. They didn’t have any other of the same size, so they flew in the closest plane they could. It was painted like Shamu. I got on that plane quickly, as I was ten and the thought of flying in a giant whale was too great for me to be pestered by thoughts of dying anymore. I guess Southwest did a good job that time?

  37. AngryK9 says:

    Not really surprised by this. Who knows what she could be sick from. Better to err on the side of safety, I’d say, than risk spreading unknown contamination.

  38. NickelMD says:

    1) You cannot tell how sick someone is by looking at them. As an ER physician one of my greatest pet peeves is when people complain that someone who ‘doesn’t look sick’ got seen before them. Just because someone looks well doesn’t mean they aren’t ATD (actively trying to die.)

    2) It is none of your damn business how or why she was sick. Just because she is a flight attendant, that doesn’t negate her right to medical privacy.

    3) Sorry you were inconvenienced, but a flight attendant or passenger being sick is not the airlines fault, nor should they be required to compensate you for the fact that they placed the health and safety of someone on your flight before your convenience.

    4) Quit whining like a 4 year old.

  39. nancypants says:

    Just because she didn’t look sick, it doesn’t mean something wasn’t going on.

    It is confidential, because it’s no one else’s business what was going on with her. My first thought was that the woman was probably having a miscarriage. How would you like to be the jerk that yells at this woman that she’s not really sick and has something like that going on?

    I would think that the airline would keep an extra attendant in the plane for safety reasons in case one of them gets sick, but maybe the woman needed medical attention as fast as they could get it for her.

  40. johnnya2 says:

    What is the situation was a pilot who had major flu like symptoms? Then the option is to get him off the pane so as not to infect the other crew members or risk possibly having all the crew and passengers sick before they land. I do not want to see my FA or piot running to the bathroom to puke. It is inconvenient, but done in the interest of safety for ALL. If you do not want to take mass transit and be assured of every possible detail, then pay for a private plane and personal pilot. Until such time, the airline is ABSOLUTELY right to do what they deem best interest of all.

  41. Bruce Bayliss says:

    I have. BOS-BOS-FRA
    The captain is in sole charge of a flight.
    If he/she determines that it’s necessary to return to the airport, he/she will do it.
    If a doctor is on board, he will call on that person’s expertise. Failing that, he/she will provide the symptoms to a medical service who will provide guidance.
    But the decision is ultimately the captain’s
    End of story.

  42. krista says:

    It would have cost a large amount of money to turn the plane around – fuel, landing fees, salaries. I doubt the pilot would have done it if the situation was not serious. I’m sure a little gesture to the passengers would have been nice – a free drink or headsets, maybe. But I don’t see this as being a situation I would have expected monetary compensation.

  43. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    I was on one of the first 747’s making the transpacific flights sometime in 69-70… it was a while ago and I did fly this route a fair bit at that time… Anyway one of the engines ingested something early in the flight, likely a gull shortly after take off… but kept going. At some point the flight crew decided or were instructed to land the plane. The nearest runway able to handle the plane was Anchorage Alaska. So we made a scenic detour to Anchorage for what I remember as a very interesting 24 hour delay. We got to sleep on the airport floor and be harassed by a janitor with the largest hump on his back I have ever seen. At first we thought he must have a soccer ball under his shirt…

    Anyway, taking it all in stride it was an interesting adventure.

  44. yourefired says:

    I don’t know where he pilot diverted to, but if he diverted back to Philadelphia that is a SERIOUS lack of judgement on his part. If he were 2 hours out, most likely he was about 20 minutes from Boston Logan where US Airways has a huge station.

    It didn’t have to turn into a 5 hour delay if the pilot knew one iota of geography.