When Social Media Flies The Not-So-Friendly Skies

There’s no question when airlines relaxed their cellphone usage policies inflight, air travel for passengers and flight attendants changed overnight - and we’re not talking red-eyes here. That’s right, when the FAA reversed its position on making  it mandatory to switch to the ‘Airplane Mode,’ we are now all able (after take-off) to fire up any and all of our devices including smartphones, tablets, laptops and eReaders  — and keep them live during the entire length of a flight! Hallelujah, or should we not celebrate just yet!

Selfie, now a TV SitCom . .

Before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat, passengers were only able to document and communicate with others about their flight experience, after they landed. Now, they can virtually post both pleasant and not-so pleasant experiences in real-time. This change in policy was satirically underscored in the debut TV episode of “Selfie,” a new situation comedy that focused on the more narcissistic and embarrassing side of social media.

As a modern-day version of the My Fair Lady musical, which was based upon George Bernard Shaw’s iconic play, Pygmalion, the lead characters Eliza Dooley (Karen Gillan) and Henry Higgs (John Cho) are drawn together to counter the after-shock of a video gone viral after an inflight mishap (No spoilers here - but, if you want to learn more, you can view the episode in its entirety online at the show's ABC website).

Passengers critiquing Flight Attendants. . .

But fellow passengers are not the only ones who have bared the brunt of social media shenanigans mid-flight. “Flight attendants have a love/hate relationship with social media,” says Emily Witkop, a veteran flight attendant.

“Someone instantly tweets how you are a super stew. Or terrible…. Someone takes your picture and bashes you and your airline for making them late,” continues Witkop. “It’s helpful on some forums to get instant clarification to work or situational questions throughout the day. But we also have a social media policy where we can be disciplined at work if something that was posted negatively reflects upon the company. So there’s good and bad.”

With the ubiquitous use of social media on planes, “Now, when things start to get a little out of control, I feel like I need to force a smile so when the video goes viral everyone’s not pointing out the nasty-looking flight attendant,” says Heather Poole, flight attendant and author of “Cruising Altitude: Tales of Crash Pads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers.” “See, they’re all bitchy! They never smile.”

Passengers are A-holes?

On the flip-side, flight attendants can also turn the tables on their inconsiderate passengers. ‘PassengerShaming’ has its own Faceboook page and has racked up over 224,466 likes and counting (as of this post.) Described as “Are these a-holes, serious?” it includes photos and status updates taken by anonymous flight attendants from all over the world.

“Five or six years ago I started a website called ‘Rants of a Sassy Stew’ where I would rant about passenger behavior,” says Shawn Kathleen, a former flight attendant and blogger. “Then, I started getting so many photos of passengers acting like idiots I started PassingerShaming.com.”

Flight of Fancy

So, your thoughts readers? What embarrassing or funny experience have you witnessed during one of your recent flights - and how was that event captured for posterity on social media? Bearing in mind, the irony of using Snapchat to document one of these inflight anecdotes, where you can capture, communicate and have your status update virtually and literally disappear, all before you land. Gives a whole new meaning to 'fleeting messages,' don't you think?
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Oct 2, 2014
by Anonymous

Or here's something new.

Or here's something new. Why don't people just treat others with respect, whether they are passengers or flight attendants? Too radical?

Oct 2, 2014
by Anonymous

I've been a Flight Attendant

I've been a Flight Attendant and Safety Instructor for 24 years. I have had no experiences, nor have I heard any of my peers express having any experiences with passengers using social media against them. Though there may be a few out there photographing crew, it is against the law to photograph or videotape any crew member conducting their duties onboard the aircraft (this law was enacted post 9/11 for security purposes).

Oct 3, 2014
by Ron Callari

Thanks so much for your

Thanks so much for your feedback and information pertaining to the law that's been enacted to curb this activity. However all of the quotes in this article were documented from the following sources: 'Yahoo Travel' report, flight attendant Heather Poole's book and former flight attendant Shawn Kathleen's Facebook page