I consider myself a disciplined person, raised to be such and having it in my nature not to dare, provoke or fight authorities. On top of that I have worked 14 years for lawyers, which trained my instincts to be cautious and not to act without knowledge of the law being on my side.
Although I have been quite rebellious in my youth and definitely pushed all my parents buttons pretty hard, in my adult life I like to call myself a “rebel with a cause”, meaning I rebel to abuse, discrimination or anything unfair.
HERE IS WHAT HAPPENED WITH AIR FRANCE – JANUARY 2019
I had booked a roundtrip with KLM and was returning to Los Angeles from Venice, Italy. Due to bad weather conditions KLM cancelled my flight a day prior my departure and redirected me to AIR FRANCE for an alternative flight (obviously free of charge).
I was not thrilled to fly through Paris Charles De Gaulle (I’ll explain why later) but the new departure time suited me better so no big deal, up to this point…
THE LAVATORY INCIDENT
It is my healthy habit and physiological need, to drink at least 2 liters of water a day especially when approaching a 12/14 hours flight.
As the plane from Venice just started descending to Paris, here I am…needing to use the toilet. I want you to preliminary know that I try to avoid last minute trips to the lavatory as much as I can, and that in the few cases I had to, the flight attendants simply encouraged me to be quick. So I got up.
The attendants were all seated and buckled up; as I get closer to the toilet one of them aggressively orders me to go back to my seat.
Even if such tone and manners would normally light me up like fire in a barn, I knew I was somehow (however unintentionally) breaking the rules so I remained calm, looked at the attendant in the eyes and firmly claimed “I’VE GOT TO PEE”.
The man ignoring my need, repeats the previous order, with the same nasty manners. Again and despite the abusive tone, I calmly repeated I had to pee and opened the lavatory door, which HE CLOSED WITH A KICK!.
At that point, and still keeping calm, I told him: “Look, unless you want me to pee on myself, I am going to do what I need to do, I have a kidney condition and I WILL PEE RIGHT HERE”.
As I didn’t know what trouble I was possibly going to get into, I decided to pull out the health issue card, thinking that, out of all the passengers one may actually be very sick, have a diarrhea attack or other uncontrollable issues!
Do passengers have to be subjected to such restrain despite nature’s calls? Are they going to be forced to poop or pee their pants and more importantly, do they deserve such hostility?
From a human point of view, I REALLY DON’T THINK SO. So I felt like the “white lie” I told was pushed by the circumstances and very much justified.
I RESEARCHED MY RIGHTS AND THIS IS WHAT I FOUND OUT
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, disobedience of crew members instructions is a FEDERAL OFFENSE.
As per CFR § 121.318 (k) in fact:
“Each passenger shall comply with instructions given him or her by a crew member regarding compliance with paragraphs (f), (g), (h), and (l) of this section”;
paragraph (f) reads: “Each passenger required by §121.311(b) to occupy a seat or berth shall fasten his or her safety belt around him or her and keep it fastened while the ‘‘Fasten Seat Belt’’ sign is lighted”.
When you don’t obey these laws, you become an UNRULY PASSENGER, therefore subject to punishment. But was my disobedience really that bad? Let’s see…
IATA (International Air Transport Association) DEFINITION OF UNRULY PASSENGER
“Examples of unruly and disruptive behaviors on board:
- Illegal consumption of narcotics;
- Refusal to comply with safety instructions (examples include not following cabin crew requests, e.g., instructions to fasten a seat belt, not to smoke, turn off a portable electronic device or disrupting the safety announcements);
- Verbal confrontation with crew members or other passengers;
- Physical confrontation with crew members or other passengers;
- Uncooperative passenger (examples include interfering with the crew’s duties, refusing to follow instructions to board or leave the aircraft);
- Making threats (includes all types of threats, whether directed against a person, e.g., threat to injure someone, or intended to cause confusion and chaos, such as statements referring to a bomb threat, or simply any threatening behavior that could affect the safety of the crew, passengers and aircraft);
- Sexual abuse/harassment; and other type of riotous behavior (examples include: screaming, annoying behavior, kicking and banging heads on seat backs/tray tables)”.
As per paragraph 2., it seems like I did somehow refuse to comply with safety instructions, but if so, how come I did not get reported?
THE HUMAN FACTOR
What I gather from the list above is that in order to really get in trouble I would have had to seriously DISRUPT and ENDANGER the crew and or the passengers. Which a quick leak can’t possibly do, in a case like mine…
From a source on the matter I’ve also read that “it is the flight attendant duty and responsibility to inform you about the risks of using the lavatory or getting up when the seat belt sign is ON. For this very reason you should not ask permission (which I did not) because such will not be granted, for your safety”.
Basically, if despite the warning you still have to use the lavatory, then it should be considered at your own risk.
Additionally, from a look I took at the FAA INVESTIGATION REPORTS, it doesn’t seem like the crew members or FAA have time to waste over investigating and penalizing human needs, especially when politely expressed like I did. Which is WHY, possibly, I HAVEN’T BEEN REPORTED TO THE AUTHORITIES.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CREW MEMBERS BEHAVIOR?
SLATE.COM states that: “The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, distinguishes between flight attendants’ duty to inform and their duty to enforce.
In general, the FAA emphasizes what information flight attendants must provide to passengers about federal regulations and when they must provide it.
But the FAA is much less prescriptive in describing how diligent flight attendants must be in enforcing regulations—they don’t require flight attendants, for example, to lock the lavatory door anytime the seat belt sign is on.”
THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION DOES NOT RULE ABOUT ATTENDANTS BEHAVIOR.
On aviation.stackexchange.com I found that: “the FAA is responsible for safety regulations and standards, not for code of conducts or courtesy regulations for interactions between flight attendants and passengers.
Flight attendants are bound to certain behavior only by their employer and their code of conduct, additionally to any national law that prohibits insulting others or harming them otherwise.
Crew members are bound by the rules as specified by the airlines”.
While the FAA forbids the use of lavatory when the seat belt sign is on, particularly when taking off or descending, there is a common sense of humanity that can’t be persecuted by the laws in place.
Do not ask for permission to do so, however kindly express your urgency and do not engage in altercations or discussions because it will make you GUILTY OF ALL CHARGES.
If a crew member is rude to you, it is not acceptable but do not put gas on the fire, try to gather his/her name and report him/her to the airline.
AIR FRANCE OVERALL EXPERIENCE
Although I understand people can have bad days or be overworked and tired, unfortunately this was only one or the 2 “rudeness experiences” I have suffered with Air France, on the same day and within 2 hours period.
The other episode occurred while boarding my connecting flight in Paris. The attendant checking passengers IDs and boarding passes totally freaked out on me when she saw that my Italian passport and my green card (U.S.A. permanent resident visa) carry 2 different last names, one being my maiden name and the other my marital last name.
Despite my passport clearly reads that I DO RESIDE IN THE STATES, she immediately lost her temper at first doubting my identity and then asking me why did I change my last name!
Now this is a personal question no authority in my numerous travels back and forth from the States ever dared asking or disputing. Nor was none of her business in my opinion, but again, I bit my tongue and did not tell her so…
She should have more accurately examine the evidences in her hands or the evidence I could provide to prove that I was the same person. She finally did, but her agitation was over the top and caused stress besides other passengers were delayed to board.
ARE 2 AIR FRANCE ARROGANT EMPLOYEES AN UNFORTUNATE COINCIDENCE?
I looked for similar complaints against Air France on the Consumer Affairs website and needless to say, I found… too many. See here .
LAST TIP: WHY DO I TEND TO AVOID CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRPORT
In all my experiences I’ve encountered the longest lines and waiting time at the passport check point between connecting flights. So long I feared to miss my plane EVERY TIME.
Ultimately I never did, but you can imagine the stress! It seems like there are not enough officers doing the job. If you have an EU passport you get through faster; if not, you will get quite worried.
MORE ABOUT MY TRAVELS HERE!