A flight attendant tells how she subdued an angry passenger

Ann Hood was a flight attendant for TWA in the 1970s and 1980s.
Courtesy of Ann Hood

Former flight attendant Ann Hood tells how she had to carry a passenger on board.

When the passenger was told there was no more lasagna left for dinner, he started banging on the overhead light.

When she faced this situation, her intense training had an effect.

For Anne Hood, working as a young flight attendant in the 1980s presented some challenges. As she describes in her memoir, “Fly Girl,” she had to undergo weight checks, fend off unwanted crawling from male passengers, and even subdue a restless traveler—all over a batch of lasagna.

In 1982, at age 24, Hood worked as a flight attendant for three years. She was serving dinner on a routine route from San Francisco to New York City when a serious argument broke out over food. While offering passengers two options — ribs and lasagna — the lasagna hood ran out, she wrote in her diary, published May 3. “It was inevitable that one of our options would run out, and sometimes the passenger gets really angry when that happens,” she wrote, adding, “By the time I got to class 45, the lasagna would have run out.”

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In this particular situation, Hood said, she would either put the remaining cucumbers on the passengers’ tray or offer them a free cocktail if they were really disappointed. However, this passenger refused both options and became aggressive. After shouting, “I want lasagna,” according to Hood, the passenger repeated, “I. He wants. L. Lasagna.”

Former flight attendant Ann Hood said her extensive training has paid off

Hood relied on her extensive training to please the angry rider. According to her book Fly Girl, she replied, “I’m so sorry, sir. We’re out of lasagna. But would I make you a wine or a cocktail at home?”

But this was not enough to prevent the passenger from having a nervous breakdown. “He just banged the overhead light and yelled, ‘I want lasagna!’ Hood wrote. He rammed the appliance so hard that the ceiling panel above his seat popped open, exploded in the light fixture and dangled from some wires.”

The scene happened overnight, according to Hood. “It wasn’t just a nuisance,” she said. “In a split second, his eyes widened, and he started smashing things on the plane.” Fearing for her safety and the safety of the other passengers, Hood thought the passenger was a time bomb. “He went completely crazy and had a total nervous breakdown,” she said. She and her crew immediately took action to control the rapidly escalating situation.

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This was the only time in her career that she had to handcuff her.

“Two male flight attendants came to us first, one with the shackles we had on the plane—I never thought I’d ever need to use them,” Hood wrote in her book. When the captain arrived at the scene, Hood said he decided not to divert the plane and eject the passenger. Instead, the flight continued to its destination, John F. Kennedy International Airport, where passengers would be met by police upon landing.

On the ground, Hood was asked to give a statement to the police while the passenger was taken away handcuffed. According to Hood, when he heard what provoked the rebellious passenger, the captain said, “Is it all because of the lasagna?” In her seven-year career as a flight attendant, Hood said she’s never had to handcuff another passenger.

As for the passenger’s fate, Hood said she didn’t know. “This is another story whose ending I don’t know, but it is a criminal offense to destroy an aircraft,” she said. Decades later, cabin crew are still dealing with rowdy passengers – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past two years, flight attendants have had to de-escalate many situations on the plane fueled by a tense political climate. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US aviation regulator, 2021 was the worst year on record, with 5,981 reports of accidents from disobedient passengers. The Federal Aviation Administration said it has proposed $5 million in fines against disobedient passengers.

These actions could have an impact: As of May 31, 2022, the agency has reported 1,443 cases of awkward passengers this year.

This text was translated by Lisa Ramos-Dossi from English. You can find the original here.

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