Surprising Reasons Flight Attendants Have Been Fired from Their Jobs

If you spend your days stuck behind a desk, working as a flight attendant might seem like the perfect job. You get to travel the world and meet new people, all while getting paid.

The reality is a bit more complicated, however. Competition for flight attendant jobs is stiff and the hours are long. Plus, you have to put up with creepy or aggressive passengers, health risks and more. And then there’s your employer. Rules for flight attendants are strict and the pay is low, at least in the beginning.

Flight Attendant

Flight attendant talking with a passenger | Ruben Ramos/iStock/Getty Images

Is it any wonder that conflict sometimes erupts when flying the friendly skies? Whether they’ve run afoul of silly airline rules or made a mistake that could jeopardize passenger safety, here are some surprising reasons flight attendants have been fired.

Getting married

Back when flight attendants were still known as stewardesses, many airlines had a rule: Only “pretty single women” were hired, since that’s what male business travelers wanted, according to a Chicago Tribune article from 1986. When a flight attendant got married, she often lost her job. U.S. airlines eventually ended the sexist practice, but it’s persisted in other parts of the world. As recently as 2015, Qatar Airways flight attendants could be fired if they got married or became pregnant.

Calling a city by the wrong name

In 2018, a Russian flight attendant was fired when she referred to the Russian city of Kaliningrad by its German name of Königsberg. When a passenger tweeted about the mistake, Aeroflot quickly said the flight attendant would be fired.

Refusing to fly after spotting an ominous note on a plane

In 2014, United Airlines fired 13 flight attendants who refused to fly after someone scrawled the words “BYE BYE” on the plane’s tail section. The crew thought the words were a threat and declined to get on the flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong. After they lost their jobs, the flight attendants filed a whistleblower complaint and were eventually reinstated.

Starting a blog  

In 2004, Delta flight attendant Ellen Simonetti lost her job at her employer discovered she’d been running an anonymous blog, “Queen of Sky.” The airline objected to her posting photos of herself in her Delta uniform. She later sued Delta, and the case was settled out of court.

Raising safety concerns  

In 2015, a passenger on a JetBlue flight about to depart JFK noticed what they thought was a safety violation and notified the cabin crew. A flight attendant stepped onto the jetway to call a supervisor to ask what to do. Rather than applauding the employee for their commitment to keeping passengers safe, the airline fired the flight attendant. But the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ruled that the flight attendant was protected by whistleblower rules. The fired flight attendant got their job back – three years later – plus back wages and damages.

Watching an iPad

In 2013, United fired two veteran flight attendants after their boss spotted them watching a video on an iPad and not wearing aprons when they were serving passengers. After they lost their jobs, the flight attendants sued, eventually winning $800,000 in damages.

Sending racist Snapchats  

Another British Airways flight attendant found herself in hot water after she posted a lewd and racist video to her Snapchat during a flight to Nigeria. The flight attendant claims she was “set up” by a coworker. While initial reports say the flight attendant was fired, she says she resigned.

Getting drunk

British Airways

A British Airways plane | Sansara/ iStock/ Getty Images

In 2018, British Airways fired a flight attendant after it discovered she got drunk on a flight from Singapore to England. The employee reportedly consumed eight shots of vodka over the 13-hour flight. A passenger smelled booze on her breath, and when the flight arrived in London, she was arrested. Given that part of a flight attendant’s job is keep passengers safe in the event of an emergency, we think this was probably the right call, considering that her blood alcohol level was 10 times over the legal limit.

Reporting a rape

In this disturbing story, a flight attendant says she lost her job with Alaska Airlines after reporting that a first officer drugged and raped her during an overnight stop in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She’s suing her former employer, saying her firing was an act of retaliation.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!