Coach Left Thirsty: Passenger Blasts American Airlines For Only Serving Drinks In First Class During Turbulence

An American Airlines passenger took to TikTok to complain that, due to turbulence, there was no drink service on her flight in coach – while first class received service throughout the flight.

@iamshanno Explain yourself @American Airlines #supersus #suspicious #americanairlines #airplane #wtf #dontbesuspicious #sus #explainthis #corporate #greedy #screwedup #fypシ #viral #fyp #fixthis ♬ Don't be suspicious – io non so

Coach drinks are generally served from a galley cart. It is heavy and unwieldly and not something cabin crew will be able to manage in severe turbulence. First class drinks will be delivered individually since it’s a smaller cabin, depending on the aircraft on American it’s just 2-5 rows.

And while the video’s creator claimed “there wasn’t any turbulence at all” that is very much not the point. If the captain says to expect turbulence, based on reports received from other aircraft or based on radar of upcoming storms, they’re going to take precautions. Also, flight attendants will have an easier time returning to a jump seat in first class, and won’t need to stow the galley cart.

I’m torn between whether this is a good look or a bad look.

  • Want a drink during turbulence? Buy first class.
  • On the other hand, doesn’t it look like the safety of cabin crew serving coach is less important?
  • And there’s an odd human desire for solidarity, that we all suffer when some people suffer and that those who don’t are resented (when it always seemed to me like we should be happy that not everyone does). We’re way too French in this regard.

Of course we can easily take things too far, like one United flight where the airline actually announced that a delay was due to the need to provision blankets and pillots for first class. That did not go over well.

But neither does not serving drinks at all, even in first class, “due to the short duration of the flight” with no expected turbulence at all and when the flight is scheduled to offer drink service. I’ve had that too many times.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. This is obviously a regional jet so couldn’t have been that long in the air. I have had some short flights on multiple airlines where it was announced that in coach only water would be offered because it was not safe to bring the cart out. Cups and napkins were offered to those that wanted then water poured without a cart. Seemed like a fair compromise.

  2. Nothing wrong with that…..just another whiner in Coach..

    If the pilot receives a PIREP of turbulence from another aircraft, he will act accordingly to protect the passengers and cabin crew. First is easy because its a quick stroll from the galley to the seats in First.
    Hauling a trolley through the length of the aircraft could be dangerous for both CC and the passengers.

  3. As a pilot with 37 years of flying, I can attest to flight attendants calling the cockpit and requesting that a “fake” turbulence announcement and subsequent “seat belt” announcement be made in order to eliminate the need to provide inflight service to passengers. Most pilots will comply in order not to be as a non-team player. In this case, first class might have been served to minimize the wrath of high millage passengers.

  4. Once you start serving in coach, you’ve got to finish. What would people put on TikTok if they could only serve as far back as the exit rows and then turbulence prevented them from serving further back? At least first class is a defensible classification, and a heavy cart is probably not necessary.

  5. Without exception this article will (yet once again) turn into a free for all to bash flight attendants. (Those of us who are actually quite good get no credit.) I am not making excuses for lazy flight attendants, I hate working with them – because they give us all a bad name, and they make my job harder. But there are a couple of thoughts about turbulence that others should consider.

    Before I list those, let me state that seven years ago I received a major knee injury from unexpected turbulence, had surgery and was out of work for just over six months. So turbulence is serious, as a recent death caused by it on another carrier reminds us.

    1. Flight attendants are informed by the pilots when there is expected or reported turbulence. Those reports come from ATC based on notifications they receive from other aircraft ahead. Depending on the carrier (in my case AA) and their procedures, activity in the cabin by flight attendants can be restricted. Which is why it may be perfectly smooth at the moment but flight attendants are told by the pilots to sit down. When that happens, we CANNOT get up until we are called and told it is safe, because if we do and are hurt then legal liabilities change – just as they do with passengers who choose to disregard the seat belt sign.

    2. Though this might be hard to believe, it is the truth. The back of the plane is ‘bumpier’ than the front. Always. And on some planes it’s even more noticeable. (Should you be in the back of a plane during turbulence, notice how much the whole fuselage bends from one end to the other.) That is one reason why a flight attendant in fist/business class may attempt to do a service when coach flight attendants do not. The point made in the article about the (very) heavy beverage carts – AND the loose inserts sitting on top of the cart – are potential disasters during turbulence.

    3. I almost always work in first/business. (YES, I do the dang predepartures that you all are so very concerned about.) When we are told to sit down by the pilots, or not get up after takeoff for some time, I’m always antsy because I want to get up and do the service. One, because people expect it. Two, because they deserve it. Three, because I actually am good at what I do. And four, because even though the separation from coach is not my ‘fault’, it is what it is and I feel that since it’s generally smoother on the front end of the plane that maybe I can take the risk. Honestly, that’s stupid on my part because I have been told to remain seated and AA will not be liable in the case that I’m hurt. But because it’s only a few rows, I sometimes gamble with it. When I do, I am aware that I’m taking a risk, AND that folks in coach will wonder why I am up when the flight attendants in coach are not.

    I know it’s frustrating when you’re in coach and might see a service being offered in first/business (by the way, if you’re sitting in first/business and request a drink when it’s ‘bumpy’, be prepared to handle it if it goes into your lap), but remember that serving a very long aisle from a very heavy and potentially dangerous cart in coach is a very different animal.

  6. I have flown the CLT-LGA-CLT route almost weekly for a year. Pilots IMHO have a wink wink arrangement supporting FA union issues by talking about turbulence on almost every flight to cover FA’s doing less. The trick flight crew does is turn off seatbelt light as soon as it is “too late” in flight to bring out beverage cart. I am EP and generally fly business or FC so it doesn’t impact me.

  7. The main issue here is communication and this is mostly the fault of the airline. The flight attendant easily could have said, “We ask that everyone remain seated due to expected turbulence. We wish we could serve drinks but unfortunately it’s not safe to bring out the galley cart at this time. It should be expected in 2024 that passengers might notice the first class drinks, not understand the full story, and post something on social media.

    As an economy passenger I would also assume if it’s not safe for me to go the bathroom, the flight crew should be seated as well.

  8. I am getting so tired of all these TikTok influencers that think the world revolves around them.

  9. Thank you to an Actual AA Flight Attendant. I appreciate your sharing of information and your service.

  10. Likewise. Was on a United flight from DFW to Den, where the flight attendants, not the captain, announced there would be no service due to turbulence, when there was actually no turbulence at all! I felt the crew just did not want to do their job, even water was not offered (as was, on real turbulent flights in the past) and first class did get the service! Another reason, why I hate flying anymore, even in first or premo econ!

  11. Flew AA Flagship Business DFW to OGG last month. No pre-departure beverages either way. No walk throughs after meal service offering any further drinks. Total joke of an experience.

  12. Often, If flight attendants do not want to do drink service, they will ask the Captain to make just such an announcement.

  13. Thank you David P for your acknowledgement of the AA FA’s absolutely-accurate post. I’m one as well, and I would comment that her description of these circumstances and her behavior is spot-on.

  14. I have found in life the person who is complaining about not getting an alcoholic drink is usually the person who least needs to be drinking alcohol.

  15. Okay, so 1: First Ckass doesn’t require a MASSIVE AND HEAVY CART TO SERVE those Bevs. 2: it’s 6 to 12 passengers depending on the domestic plane 3: WE PAID 500-1500% THE PRICE OF YOUR TICKET. So we actually paid for drinks, not a little “amenity” for your Basic Economy seat. Gimme a break and stop trying to make it seek like you “deserve” anything in coach but a seat to a destination. PAY UP if you want better/more service guarantees.

  16. Re: Soi-disant Tik-tok “influencer”:
    1) Not a real influencer. Only 241 followers.
    2) If I were to be snarky — I’d speculate on whether @IAMSHANNO is old enough for adult beverages. In any event – in my (not so humble) opinion — complaining on social media about no service in Y during turbulence is symptomatic of self-important, entitled princes and princesses. Too many of those. Coming out from Terminal 1 at FLL yesterday (Memorial Day) I saw two Broward County deputies loading a handcuffed 20-something young lady into the back of a cruiser. And, no, didn’t want to take a picture and post it to social media.
    3) @ Gary is correct – there is a fundamental difference between serving by hand in F and serving from the cart in Y.
    4) @An Actual AA Flight Attendant is correct – FA’s do get bashed too often. (Unlike us old lawyers — — we never die, but we do lose our appeal.)

  17. Boo hoo, prole. Your tears of poverty and “injustice” are sweet to me.

  18. This so-called influencer is obviously so stupid she doesn’t know the difference between a flight attendant in first handing out a couple of drinks and one pushing a heavy cart through coach. A flight attendant just died when the aircraft hit severe turbulence, FFS. I’m SO sick of these influencers.

  19. 1.Most times the turbulence is felt more in the aft of the plane. 2. There is a heavy cart that is brought out in coach which makes it more dangerous for the crew while there is only 1 person hand running drinks in first class. 3. bring your own non alcoholic beverage. ‍♀️

  20. Oh my gosh, I had no idea that 1st class got ” pillots”, guess I’ll spring it for it next flight.

  21. I’m an adult and bring my own water bottle on flights. Also, food in case i get hungry. I don’t depend on others. Again.. because I’m an adult and not a whiney baby. Every airport has fill up stations near the bathrooms by the water fountains.

  22. BenG—try and show some class if you think you deserve to sit in front. Also, if you are an OPM flier you had best not brag about how much your ticket cost.

  23. @jcil Methinks Ben believes he deserves to be up front because he paid for it. Also, this is a blog followed by those who know what fare differences are by class. That isn’t bragging. Darn, we almost had everyone playing nicely.

  24. How about this for a compromise when there is any potential for turbulence? Announce that the possibility of turbulence makes it impossible to bring the cart up and down the aisle, but the FAs will be bringing small bottles of water for anyone who would like to have something to drink without a cup and without ice.

    And to anyone who complains about first class passengers’ getting better service because they paid more, be aware that domestically, in my experience, few employers pay for first class, and if they did, so be it.

  25. I’m flying across the country next month for family reasons. I typically won’t get on a plane anymore post covid as people have turned crazy behaving, I just can’t deal with it so I opt not to fly. Many people need to get from point A to point B and are blessed to be able to! Many who need to go can’t because we can’t make ends meet as it is, living paycheck to paycheck. Please don’t bash those who can’t fly FC/BC for these reasons, I’m sure they’d love to be able to upgrade! People who can afford it please don’t berate those who can’t and coach people, be kind to each other for Pete’s sake! Why make others miserable because you feel entitled! Sit and feel blest that you are able to travel and be kind to one another! You never know what that person next to you is dealing with. Thanks for reading!

  26. Airline pricing and upgrades are bizarre, everyone knows it, and that’s just a fact of life. I was on a flight abroad last year, and after my wife & I were seated in economy, but before takeoff, United upgraded us to Economy Plus. Just as we settled in, the FA came by and told us that she has one upgrade available to Polaris, and of course I gave it to my wife. A few minutes later, the FA came by again and told me that she had cleared another upgrade and moved me to Polaris as well. We were traveling with a large group, and nobody was annoyed, not our friends who hadn’t gotten upgraded, and not our friends who had shelled out top dollar to book in Polaris. On the return trip ten days later, we were not upgraded and of course we weren’t annoyed at that either. To understand where we are coming from, so to speak, I have traveled for decades, always in coach domestically and mostly in business class or occasionally first class on long-haul flights internationally, while my wife has not had any business travel and most of her flights have been in coach other than the occasional upgrade or purchase with miles.

  27. A few thoughts:
    1) In reference to the comment from the REAL AA FA, I no longer complain about AA FAs on View but instead I now ***PITY*** them. Total change in tone from me. Their union is a shill for management and they work an awful job. All they have in front of them is a lifetime of labor. I would skip the pre departure drinks because we all end up in the grave anyway.
    2) What did we learn from the most recent Sinagpore airlines heavy turbulence? I don’t even want the tray or the glasses from AA during normal service because honestly they seem like weapons ready to fly on me. I prefer a nice plastic bottle in the netting of the seat in front of me that I can take out and put away as needed.
    3) You ALWAYS need to bring your own water onto the airplane. It is awful to have a dry mouth while flying and then have the FAs ignore and hate (normal response from degraded people). This is doubly true in FIRST because paying a premium does nothing to enhance service.
    4) This all seems like a summary of how many people feel taken advantage of by society and that prior generations got is easier than they did. That seems like it might be accurate, but not an excuse. There is no equity in the real world. This is a winner take all economy. Get ready to be ground down like the AA FAs. There is more of that coming.

  28. Happens all the time, that is a perk of First Class, when i travel in coach, i usually bring an overpriced water or a drink just in case along with snacks as nothing is a given on a flight, sometimes even in first class!

  29. if the pilots know ahead of time that there’s going to be turbulence for the flight they should just tell the flight attendants to give everybody bottle of water in coach

    I travel with a collapsible water bottle that I fill after security.

  30. Gary not understanding the concept of empathy towards other human beings (to the point of mistakenly calling it solidarity, an entirely different concept) explains a great deal of what I read in this blog.

    Obviously the TikToker in this case is just trying to rustle up some concern trolls and get some clicks. Anyone who’s been on a regional flight knows that if weather is even remotely dicey, you’re probably not getting drink service on that flight, and they’re short enough that you generally don’t mind. Fill your water bottle up ahead of boarding if you can’t go without refreshment for 90 minutes.

  31. Less seats in first class, shorter time to serve. Less turbulence in front of plane. Grow a pair and you all have drinks when you board.

  32. @Anne, most likely, you will not encounter the “crazy” people you’ve heard so much about on social media. Like everything else, these are rare events that get widely circulated and cause folks to arrive at the wrong general conclusion. I’ve never had a truly unpleasant experience with a fellow passenger, in more than three decades of flying, and in all classes of service. Gate agents, yes. AA flight attendants, yes. But even those are fairly rare. Either I live a charmed life, or my experiences represent the more common outcome. Happy travels to you next month.

  33. Flying blows now. ✈ Nothing but headaches. Overly expensive food & water in terminals. Nasty airline employees, if u can even understand them. Whack job passengers. I now hop in my vehicle & drive to most destinations, even if they are far. No worries! No idiots to deal with. All is good!!

  34. Was on an Aegean (A3) flight the other night JMK-ATH. According to Flight Aware we were in the air for 18 minutes. A320 probably half full. In this time, the flight attendants almost immediately brought out 2 carts and distributed full sized water bottles to each passenger. Then came back with a cart for the trash. Both my wife and I were astonished at the speed at which the 4 flight attendants performed the service.
    It ABSOLUTELY can be done but USA flight attendants refuse. Between the bs fake turbulence announcements and the “due to the short time we’ll be together” announcements on Delta I’ve given up any expectation of service on US carriers.
    Let foreign carriers compete domestically and watch the US 4 crumble almost immediately.

  35. I can assure you (at least on Delta), that even in First, if there’s turbulence, you won’t get anything either. Had two flights (one was a bit bumpy, the other had zero turbulence) NO service in First at all. Both DL flights.

  36. @Captone, thank you for an insightful answer. I have been fortunate to only fly on flights where service was not curtailed for such excuses. I remember one flight not having peanut based snacks due to a flier with allergies (I was hungry), but whatever, that person needed to be accommodated.

  37. I absolutely HATE these so called Social Media Influencers……. most wouldn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground yet they always have their phone out smiling to their device with their broom eye lashes, claw like fingernails and goofy MFing grins thinking they are providing a Great REVEAL to Mankind. Influence Me,lol….FU….get a Life and Move On. I would like to Tar and Feather most of them or stone them in a Public Square.

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