Calling out airlines on Twitter has become a remarkably popular pastime for disgruntled passengers.
The reason behind it probably comes down to two factors — first, the complainers are usually trapped in the airport with nothing but a smartphone and their family to entertain them and second, it has become fashionable for corporations to have cheerful Twitter personalities that make their customers feel “heard.”
But one glance at a Twitter feed of an airline like Southwest shows who tends to get skewered in this situation: flight attendants (or pretty much any other airline employee that has to interact with grumpy passengers).
This was the first tweet in Southwest’s mentions when I took a glance:
That is one very specific call-out of a Southwest employee, and it certainly has the potential to negatively affect his job. Though there are some positive comments about airline employees coming through on social networks, the vast majority are complaints.
But we all know there are two sides to every story, and flight attendants aren’t taking the social media abuse lying down, BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel reports.
The “Passenger Shaming” social media accounts, run by the mysterious former flight attendant Shawn Kathleen, have become a runaway success. These accounts exist to showcase the horrors flight attendants have to put up with every day in the air — like soiled diapers and shirtless sprawling men. The Facebook page has 342,000 likes and the Instagram has 276,000 followers. And for those who aren’t as concerned with remaining anonymous, the #passengershaming hashtag is popular across many social media platforms.
“Are these a–holes serious?” the Facebook page’s description reads. “Photos taken by anonymous flight attendants & passengers from all over the world. Don’t end up here.”
“It’s…great to see people reading all these stories because now there’s photographic evidence that flight attendants are not making this shit up. It’s right here in front of you,” Kathleen told BuzzFeed. And the behaviour is awful.
In the quiet fight to preserve flight attendant dignity, there are also private Facebook groups that can unite a sometimes disconnected workforce. Kathleen told BuzzFeed she has a private group of 10,000 airline employees where they can discuss working conditions and anything that’s on their minds. There’s power to be had in organisation, even the kind that happens on Facebook, and airline companies are taking notice. Sometimes moles for the bosses try to infiltrate the groups.
And if you want a further glance into what life is like as a flight attendant, the #crewlife hashtag is a more comprehensive look, showing both the bad times and fun selfies of flight attendants around the world.
But Heather Poole, a flight attendant and author of the bestselling “Cruising Attitude,” told The New York Post the social media antics of flight attendants has crossed a certain line. With the strict control airlines have over their image, and over how their employees comport themselves while in uniform, she said she wouldn’t dare post a selfie in uniform. That hasn’t stopped others.