American Airlines Captain Lays Out Inflight Etiquette, Demands Passengers Respect Each Other

An American Airlines Boeing 737 captain lays out proper flight etiquette – and that it’s going to be enforced – before every flight. One passenger caught the soliloquy on video, titling it “Thank you for coming to his TED talk.”

Here’s the thing. This pilot is right in every single respect:

  • Be respectful.
  • Don’t intrude on the space of other passengers.
  • Wear headphones or ear buds to listen to your devices.
  • And the passenger in the middle seat gets both arm rests.

Remember, the flight attendants are here for your safety. After that they’re here to make your flight more enjoyable. They’re going to take care of you guys but you will listen to what they have to say because they represent my will in the cabin, and my will is what matters.

Be nice to each other. Be respectful to each other. I shouldn’t have to say that. You people should treat people the way you want to be treated. But I have to say it every single flight because people don’t. And they’re selfish and rude and we won’t have it.

Do your stuff. Get it out of everybody else’s way. Put your junk where it belongs. Everybody paid for a space. Don’t lean on other people. Don’t fall asleep on other people. Don’t drool on them, unless you’ve talked about it and they have a weather-resistant jacket.

Alright, a little bit of fatherhood here the other thing. The social experiment of listening to videos on speaker mode and talking on a cell phone in speaker mode, that is over. Over and done in this country. Nobody wants to hear your video. I know you think it’s super sweet. It probably is, but it’s your business right? So keep it to yourself. Use your airpods, use your headphones, whatever it is. That’s your business, okay? It’s just part of being in a respectful society.

Middle seaters, I know it stinks to be in the middle. Raise your hands. Raise them up. Anybody in the middle? Like 5 people. Yeah right that’s full. Alright nobody’s listening. Fine. You own both armrests. That is my gift to you. Welcome on board our flight.

The captain did a great job level-setting expectations, though I could see it if some passengers found the schpiel a bit patronizing. I appreciate it, mostly because I think it’s great when pilots are engaged with passengers in the cabin and communicate (though they should keep communications in the cabin to a minimum on overnight flights).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I appreciate it, mostly because I think it’s great when pilots are engaged with passengers in the cabin

    To start, there was almost certainly a factual error in the pilot’s assertions. “Everybody paid for a space.” Most flights include non-revenue passengers. That flight attendants “represent my will in the cabin” is also incorrect. Flight attendants do not report (in an HR capacity) to the captain. “[M]y will is what matters” is the kind of nonsense you hear from people who make a half million dollars in salary but haven’t had a proper education. AA being a publicly traded company it’s the members of the board of directors whose will really matters.

    As you noted the engagement was patronizing.

    Some people are blind to the tone, style, and manner of communications — as if the content of the communication is relevant to the exclusion of every other quality. If you are such a person, you’re not playing with a full deck. Form and function, style and substance are equally central to the human experience. To have one without the other is to live an incomplete life.

    But irrespective of that — to tell others to “be respectful” is to say nothing of substance. Respectful people are respectful by default. People who are disrespectful do not know what it means to be respectful and are not going to start being respectful by edict.

    Cut pilots pay by 70-80% immediately. Fire all right-wing pilots.

  2. @Alison – just grow up. My god, *you* are more patronizing than this captain was.

  3. Not sure where Alison gets her info, but I do believe the aircraft captain and a ship captain come as close to an absolute authority as possible once the plane is airborne. Yes, there are laws, company policy, etc., but the Captain has the biggest stick.

  4. OMG!! I can’t believe that he spoke to women, black and trans people (there were bound to be some if not all three on that flight) like that!!! Fire this m̶a̶n̶ person with sperm IMMEDIATELY!!!!!

  5. If person in the aisle or window seat is a person of size the pax
    in the middle seat is not getting both arm rests lol they are just getting squashed

  6. @Alison: You dumb bitch. All cabin staff report to the captain in the chain of command on a flight. Why did you think otherwise? Did you just make it up?

  7. Found it a bit patronizing.

    Would have found it less so if he’d included the FAs by saying, if you find a FA being rude or demeaning, please let us know. These rules apply to them as well.

    Just continues to confirm my decision to dump AA except in an emergency.

  8. The only reason he has to say this stuff is because people no longer know how it act. Once he says it then the FAs can enforce it though, which is a good thing. No one can say they didn’t know.

  9. A pilot with a chip on his shoulder with an authoritarian complex. I’ve got no particular problem with the truth of what he says, but that he feels the need to say it indicates deeper problems that I would be concered about.

  10. It’s all in HOW you say things. And he blew it with the “my will” inclusion.

  11. @Alison,

    It is the pilot’s will when the aircraft is in the air. His/her/they/their will is law.

  12. “Cut pilots pay by 70-80% immediately. Fire all right-wing pilots.”

    That’s like 90% of pilots. Lol

  13. I don’t find the captain talk at all patronizing. The fact that some of you do show that you Americans are too soft and are hurt too easily. The reason he has to talk like that is civics, etiquette has degraded in society so much that we don’t know how to behave properly and that’s why it is necessary to speak in such a way.

  14. @ Alison amd @Feed. Both of you are a couple of mindless gashes whose opinions Re idiotic. Alison is so GD stupid, she cannot even spell her name.

  15. @Allison

    You’ve distinguished yourself as being non-credible.

    14CFR Section 91.3 “FAA Department of Transportation”
    Responsibility and authority of the pilot in command.
    (a) The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft.

    Everybody paid for a space. Yes, even non-revenue passengers still “PAID” for a space, perhaps not monetarily. Paid via points, service, collateral exchange with other airlines, or employment benefit. They all had to give something up to earn that seat. I don’t I can just get on a flight without having given something up for it.

    I’m not right wing, I’m quite moderate. But it’s disappointing to see political quotes in a setting like this. Please leave your policies at the door.

  16. Alison or whatever, is an idiot.
    As said before, it is a chain of command.
    Male or female commander. Or captain.
    If you don’t like it, don’t fly.

  17. The Captain makes a mistake in saying the flight attendants are following his will. He is assuming that the flight attendants are always right and he trusts their judgment automatically. Blind trust is always bad. Anyone who says he or she will blindly trust flight attendants without considering the side of the passenger has no business being a pilot of a commercial airliner. Flight attendants have proven themselves to be prone to lying, escalating situations, failing to perform their duties and making accusations against passengers to excuse their poor behavior, and disrupting flight operations of a commercial aircraft by making false reports to the captain about passengers.

    The pilot in command has authority over flight safety in the air but that does not supersede the rights of passengers to be free from unlawful orders even in the air.

  18. First I’m amazed he has time for this worthless spiel when there are mandatory checklists he should be focused on to ensure a safe flight. It’s not the content of his rhetoric that’s worthless it’s the fact it isn’t likely to change any behavior. In fact I’d be surprised if many people heard it over their personal listening devices or even if they paid attention.

    Second it is undisputedly patronizing because it’s his way or the highway. So if passengers don’t concede the armrests to the muddle seat he plans to take some action? Certainly that’s an idle threat. He seems to be on a power trip.

  19. @Alison, I’m sure this has been said, but I don’t have time to read all responses. The Captain is the ultimate authority on any flight you’re on, on any airline. So to say his statement is flawed, couldn’t be further from the truth. Since I’m assuming you don’t have a ATP license in you possession, I’ll point you to 14 CFR § 121.533

    As for non-revs, if an AA employee, partner, family member etc is traveling they ARE paying for that flight, it’s not like the good old days. They have also likely paid with their time by being rolled all day from flight to flight to get a seat. Heck, many times they will make the craziest connections to get from point A to point B, they no one else in their life would or even worse a lot just purchased a ticket.
    Let’s talk non-rev must fly for corporate business, there is internal cost and must fly as crew, if they didn’t fly then we’re talking 100’s of thousands of dollars in cost due to cancelled flights. Cargo, huge money maker, lost! Passengers, many unless paying full price F, or Y, are in the red already, but now the cost of meal vouchers, hotels, rebooking on another airline at Full price etc is what pays for their seat and space.

    Lastly, let’s cut Pilot pay. Have you operated a 37,67, 320, or, 380? Do you want a 20 year old that is under more stress then you can’t even imagine piloting the aircraft you’re on? I don’t and god forbid there’s a serious issue with the aircraft that they know the lives of 100’s of souls on board are literally in their hands.

    I don’t think I need to say more and having a shiny elite card that literally 100’s of thousands have doesn’t make you an expert

  20. @alison-

    Like it or not, federal law gives pilots in command, absolute authority over the crew during flight, and that includes flight attendants. Sorry if that doesn’t make you happy, go to pilot school if you want that authority and responsibility.
    By the way, most of us are more educated, in the cockpit than those in the cabin, as a college degree was required until recently. This was never required for cabin crew.

  21. Delivery is everything. Poorly presented and he sounds like a douche. Despite if he is right.

    Not sure what’s more annoying…this Ted Talk or credit card pitches by FA’s.

  22. Allison.. As has been stated here, what the captain says, goes, period. He/she has virtually all the authority on the plane. He CAN tell people that the middle seat has the right to both arm rests. And finally, he had to be patronizing since so many flyers acts like children. OK boys and girls?

  23. @Alison,

    A) There was no need to bring politics into the discussion.

    B) When in the air, the Captain’s will is all that matters.

    C) You need to stop posting on this website.

  24. Wow, some of these opinions are just messed up. Maybe some of you are living under a rock and don’t notice the rudeness people are exhibiting these days. It’s way over the top. And it’s not a red or a blue problem. Everyone on the airplane is affected if there are unruly passengers.

    I commend the Captain for addressing these behaviors. I do think they would make a positive difference. So, stop your whining and set a good example.

  25. Yeah I almost always have a strong aversion to anything resembling patronization but in this particular circumstance it’s absolutely warranted and dead on. Well played.

  26. @Alison

    “ people who make a half million dollars in salary but haven’t had a proper education.”

    Others have commented on the flaws in your statement, but there is another obvious error.

    Most of the pilots flying your plane have degrees, many have engineering degrees, and many their Masters. Some are attorney’s, have a seat on the trading floor and I even know an airline pilot who is a trauma surgeon on the side but his first love is aviation. The hours and training required for a pilot to be hired by an airline is similar to a doctor. Know what you’re talking about before you insert yourself in a conversation.

  27. Gary, agreed that people can be rude on flights. Headphones, I believe, are a policy that the airline has.

    Sharing the armrest is easy enough. There is absolutely nothing in the Contract of Carriage that says the middle person gets both armrests. The pilot may have authority while the aircraft is moving, but the pilot does not decide on the product that the customer buys. That’s just making up stuff, and you should know better. This is a terrible suggestion to provide; it is reinforcing an idea that is novel and not supported by the agreement between the customer and the airline. Terrible.

  28. Alison are you just an angry female? Women have invaded every sanctuary exclusive to man. When you become a pilot you can lecture us about human nature. He made that speech as a preamble to the passenger who might consider creating a disruption inflight.

  29. While airlines have made booking a flight a nightmare due to frequent cancellations, once you are on board, they have total authority. If you don’t like that then don’t fly. Perhaps some FA’s have been rude to passengers, but I have to believe the opposite is far more prevalent. It’s fellow passengers that make me take alternative modes of transportation whenever possible. I think all passengers should be handed Rules of Conduct upon boarding and really stiff penalties for causing disruptions – like having to pay the costs to redirect a plane. It’s a sad state of affairs that this is even necessary

  30. He’s such a leftie telling passengers what to do.

    It’s personal choice now, thank you Republicans for giving us back our freedoms to do whatever we want. Who cares about others — we’re not Socialist Europe!!

  31. YouAreMakingThisWorse: This has nothing to do with the Contract of Carriage. It is common decency. Get over yourself.

  32. It is/was slightly condescending, but unfortunately necessary in this day and age where so many people [no longer] have any sense of appropriate behavior. ‘Twas good the pilot mixed in a bit of humor with his message to lighten things up a touch.

  33. He should also say people can lean their seats back. That actually is the standard, and this needs to be understood so that people choosing to fly will expect it to happen.

  34. @Alison once again hijacks a blog with her leftist political rants. Some things never change! Taxes, bad weather, traffic and @ Alison.

  35. @Alison-

    You wanna stand in front of my engine while I hit the START selector….
    ,”TURNING #2”

  36. Say what you want Alison, but the captain has an absolute authority when you are on board of his aircraft. If you would like to test it the next time you are flying, I can assure you he will not put up with your nonsense, land the aircraft at the nearest airport, and you will be greeted by the local sheriff.

  37. I think a majority of people these days need a coke & a smile and to shut the fk up when flying! I miss the days when people had etiquette and respect for one another! Back in the days LUXURY LINER was adorned on our beautiful silver body jets…not just some cross country named bus service company!

  38. Pilots may be qualified to fly airplanes but as demonstrated in this situation, pilots are not qualified to make decisions about non-flying situations or be judges. This pilot and others in his situation are incapable of making judgments based on the relevant facts. They end up blindly siding with FAs in every situation because it is the path of least resistance so the FAs exercise their overbroad authority to harass passengers. The implication that FAs are right in every situation is lazy and dangerous. His assertion that FAs are enforcing his will is wrong. The pilots need more training if they are given this kind of absolute authority. Hope the passengers will enforce their rights in a coordinated manner to balance this stupidity.

    The FAs want to be celebrated as heroes and martyrs. Last I checked, “to get hired as a flight attendant, you’re required to be at least 18 or 21 years old, depending on the state or employer, have a current passport, have at least 20/40 vision and pass a drug test and background check.”

  39. This captain was 100% right. Unless you speak with some authority and a little hyperbole, no one listens. ~10% of passengers on any given flight at whatever their stage in life have never been taught how to live in a society or have intentionally forgotten.
    So many lives are affected when these losers start fights or callously disobey the rules and order on flights. They turn the flights around, delay them, divert them to other airports, or at a minimum distract the pilots from flying the airplane.
    So in full agreement, just take your seat, live in your little bubble for a few hours, and shut up. Let’s get where we are going safely and quickly. It’s time for the the airlines to take back control over their flights. Always a given that the Passenger Bill of Rights is respected just as fervently.
    Way to go, Captain!

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