I hope the anonymous airline captain who authored the latest post at Live and Let’s Fly demanding more respect never happens to be flying an aircraft I’m ticketed on because he’s threatening to make things worse for passengers if pilots are criticized, even when the criticism is justified – as the anonymous captain admits that it is.
He takes issue with my post about the Delta captain who kicked a woman off a flight over her F-12 hat, which she took off as he instructed.
- The captain came out into the passenger cabin to instruct her over her attire while he wasn’t wearing a mask as Delta rules require, potentially creating a less safe environment for both passengers and crew.
- He compared dealing with her to dealing with his kids, and started ‘counting’ waiting for a response as you might do with a child.
- She took off the hat, which she thought should be enough, but he insisted on additional promises about not putting it back on. When she wouldn’t quickly acquiesce, she got kicked off the flight.
The Anonymous Critic Admits I’m Right, Then Attacks A Straw Man Out Of Confusion
The pilot writing at Live and Let’s Fly concedes, “Yes, the captain should have been wearing a mask. And yes, he could have handled this better.” And that’s the point of my article. He has a beef with what I’ve written, even though he agrees with my conclusion, and he simply makes an error as well:
He brings up that you can wear an F-12 shirt in a courtroom, implying that Delta should allow it as well.
I didn’t suggest at all that Delta should allow a passenger to wear an F-12 mask because you can wear one in a courtroom. I drew a distinction, saying there’s a clear right to wear something like this in a courtroom but not on an aircraft.
I wrote: “the airline doesn’t have to allow the passenger to wear the hat. You can clearly wear an ‘F-12’ shirt in a courtroom, but not on a plane.”
He’s Offended I Brought Race Into A Dispute Over A Hat Highlighting Racial Injustice
So what’s his issue with me? The title of my post was, “Delta Captain Kicks Black Women Off a Plane, But He’s The One Not Wearing a Mask” and the author is bothered that “by telling us the customer was black it implies that race was a factor.”
Race was a factor, though I’m not claiming that Delta’s pilot was racist. Instead if you want to understand what happened you need to understand that the woman was wearing a hat that provocatively calls attention to police abuses (such as the murder of George Floyd).
She’s wearing a hat that makes a point about race and abuse of power. The pilot, who was not wearing a mask (the man in authority, for whom rules don’t apply) infantilizes the woman as he exercises his power over her. So she’s in a very awkward position as he doesn’t just insist she remove the hat, but that she further ingratiate herself for permission to remain on the plane.
The pilot author of this piece doesn’t understand this dynamic, and Delta’s pilot who kicked the woman off didn’t either. That doesn’t change whether she should be permitted to wear the hat on board. And it doesn’t change that – if she isn’t going to be allowed to – that the captain wanted to make sure he wouldn’t have the situation come back up once they’re in the air.
Still we can step back a bit and try to better understand where other people are coming from when it’s outside our own experience, and why in this case a condescending approach was inflammatory.
If We Criticize Pilots, Even When Justified, We Should Be Prepared To Suffer For It
Matthew Klint’s anonymous pilot then takes umbrage and threatens that other pilots will punish passengers if their behavior is questioned.
[I]f you want to see more people being kicked off airplanes who do not deserve it, perspectives (and articles) like Gary’s make it far more likely. Sadly but undeniably, the more incidents like this that happen, where a captain is burned at the stake for trying to give a customer a break instead of just kicking them off the moment they so much as look strangely at a flight attendant, the less likely we as pilots are going to be willing to ever get involved.
He sees himself and other pilots as doing this woman who was kicked off a favor, as helping her, and he’s offended that for this trouble they get criticized.
Yet the anonymous author admits the Delta captain handled things badly, and wasn’t wearing a mask – which is worse than wearing a hat that says “F-12.” Our anonymous critic dismisses this as an ‘oversight’ which wearing the hat was ‘intentional’ but but one endangers other people, the other does not.
If he doesn’t want to get involved because he knows he’s going to handle things badly, fail to wear a mask, and antagonize the situation – turn it over to the co-pilot, or a customer service agent. But don’t threaten that criticism – which he admits is justified! – will be met with a failure to do his job, which includes customer service, as the person in command of the aircraft.
Delta, for its part, was concerned about how the incident played out – as I was.
Delta does not condone discrimination of a person or group for any reason. As a global carrier with a diverse workforce, serving a diverse customer base, we are committed to treating all passengers equally. (1/2) Terrence
— Delta (@Delta) October 25, 2020
Thank you for sharing your concern – we have followed up with those directly involved as we review the situation. (2/2) Terrence
— Delta (@Delta) October 25, 2020
I Don’t Blame The Delta Captain (Aside From Lack Of A Mask)
The Delta captain is telling the woman he has to enforce the rules while breaking them himself. I do have a problem with him failing to wear a mask when Delta’s rules require it to be worn in the cabin for the protection of both passengers and crew.
But I don’t blame him for the way the situation escalated. He didn’t understand the context of what was going on, or why his condescension would so hurtful and offensive.
I’m a middle aged white guy. The photo Matthew Klint chose to attach to the post criticizing me was of an old white guy in a cockpit. I’m hardly the most woke guy on the block. But I thought it was telling that Matthew’s original post on the incident did not mention the word ‘police’. It treated the hat as having just a naughty word on it without understanding why the incident may have escalated the way that it did.
So that’s easy to do, but also seemed worth pointing out precisely because it’s something so many seemed to be missing.