Alaska Airlines flight attendant: if I don't get the missing video screen back, no one gets off this plane

Jeff sez, "Flying in from Miami to Seattle this morning on Alaska Airlines Flight #17, I was somewhat amused (and a bit horrified) when the flight attendant said that the cabin doors would not be opened and that passengers would not be allowed off to catch connecting flights if the last video player (digiplayer, as she called it) was not returned. Partly, I'm amused because of the ridiculousness of the threat vs. the magnitude of the crime but also I have to wonder if this is against FAA regulations. I also have a brilliant tip for Alaska - when you rent a digiplayer, note down the seat number.


  1. Sounds just like grade school:

    “If the person who stole (whatever) doesn’t return it immediately, the entire class will be kept after school.”

    In the school case, the teacher expected a ‘squealer’ to report. 

    How did it work out on the plane?

    1. It’s not a coincidence that authoritarian educational environments produce adults that think the world needs to be run like a Kindergarten.

        1. That’s a good question, but next time if you have something to say please raise your hand first.  We can’t have people expressing themselves without proper authorization.  Also, please be sure you are making any such statements from a designated, “Free speech zone.”

      1. It’s not a coincidence that authoritarian educational environments produce adults that think the world needs to be run like a Kindergarten.

        The next time that you’re being bullied by a functionary, ask if that person has a degree in early childhood education. You’d be surprised how many yesses you’ll get.

        1.  Maybe it’s because those folk think you mean the ‘early childhood education’ they got between the ages of five and ten years…

  2. “No one is getting off this plane until my sense of proportion is returned to me!”   (and thus the job was lost, but the equipment inventory is safe for another day, but for …long?)

  3. You’re on the ground at this point, yes? Get on a cell phone, call 911, report a kidnapping in progress.

        1. In WA its called “Unlawful Imprisonment,” defined as “restrict[ing] a person’s movements without consent and without legal authority in a manner which interferes substantially with his or her liberty. Restraint is “without consent” if it is accomplished by (a) physical force, intimidation, or deception.” It is a class C felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. Case closed, your honor.

        2. I think the civil tort for this is called “deprivation of liberty.” I think it’s an automatic $40 grand award. IANAL.

        3.  The flight attendant is probably covered under the FAA regulation that passengers need to “follow crewmember instructions” while in the aircraft, even when it’s on the ground.

      1. Good luck getting on a bus in Montgomery ever again Ms. Parks.

        At some point we have to start standing up for our own rights, because nobody else will.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as afraid of the cops and the TSA as everyone else but if we take it, things are going to get worse, not better.

  4. Reminds me of an American Airlines flight way back in the day (pre-9/11). The flight was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, from Pittsburgh to JFK.   It was a turboprop and for whatever reason (people gorged too much?), it was too heavy to take off as it was.  They emptied all excess fuel, but still too heavy.  The attendants asked for three volunteers to get off, and when they didn’t get any, we were snottily told that the plane wasn’t going anywhere until some of us got off.  And although that was a true statement of fact–if the plane’s too heavy, it’s too heavy–they decided that school marm mode would work excellently in conjunction with their offer of no incentives to get off.  No vouchers, no refunds, nothing.  Just a rescheduled flight the next day.  Sans hotel.  Customer service at its finest.

      1.  After a stand off of about 30 minutes, they started offering vouchers and to pay for a hotel, since, as one man said, “I’ll volunteer, but I’m not sleeping in the damn airport.”

    1. Which is not how it actually works.  The person who paid the least & has the least status goes first, then the next, then the next.  Happens all the time with oversold flights.

    2.  You know, in that situation, if I thought about it, it wouldn’t be terribly hard to get me off that plane:  They’re overweight.  So, they are literally tossing weight off so that they’ll just be under the maximum safe weight.  Call me crazy, but “just under maximum safe weight” is not where I want to be.  Even though I’m sure people are countless times in that same situation, they didn’t know/weren’t notified, and nothing eventful happens.

    3. The weight problem was probably due to weather.  Anything that lower the air density (low pressure, high temperature or high humidity) increases the roll distance.  Around here it freaks people out when on occasion a plane goes off partially full due to “weather”–everyone thinks it’s the airline cheating (as no compensation is owed) but it’s just extreme summer heat.

  5. Sounds like false imprisonment under the color of authority lol.

    One time my 4th grade teacher threatened to keep us all in for recess until someone admitted to drawing a mustache on the cover of her book. She cried because she was so upset that one of her students would treat her belongings like that. Then she realized the mustache was part of the cover. (Crash, by Jerry Spinelli)

    1. As HahTse already noted, good luck with any future air travel if you pull that stunt, as you’ll have a nice Scarlet Letter next to your name in the FAA database for the rest of your life. 

      1. agree. no point in overreacting. just chill out and let them do their job. people on this forum are acting like THEY were the ones on the plane.

        1. Stever, stever stever . . . you have missed the dark humor in these posts. These things are posted with a dark smile not serious intent.

      2. Since you appear to be confused:

        False imprisonment. A person commits false imprisonment when, having no reasonable belief that the person has any right or authority to do so, the person intentionally confines another against the other’s will. A person is confined when the person’s freedom to move about is substantially restricted by force, threat, or deception. False imprisonment is a serious misdemeanor.

        1. Who’s confused?  I know what false imprisonment is.  I also know that regardless of whether or not the airline were to get in any trouble for this, the person calling 911 and claiming false imprisonment would be screwed any time they tried to book a flight on a major airline for the rest of their lives. 

  6. As soon as she said this, the troll in me would be tempted to hide the damn thing in the plane and then hide amongst the many people all getting together to sue the pants off the airline.

  7. I sincerely hope Jeff and the other passengers file charges against the airline. That might seem like an overreaction, but no flight attendant should ever get away with making such a statement. It’s called false imprisonment, and it’s illegal.

  8. I’m actually very curious-  what is the proper course of action in a situation like this? Commenters seem to agree to call 911 and report false imprisonment, but an airplane may have more rights than, say, a store.

  9. why is everyone overreacting about the flight attendant? if you want to be pissed at someone, be pissed at the idiot who was (possibly) trying to steal the video player. everyone is so quick to hate on people these days. they have a HUGE sense of entitlement and a finger of the “sue” button. man, sometimes i really dislike people.

    1. Because the issue was the flight attendant, not the missing gadget. There may not have even been one missing; they could have miscounted, or it could have been misplaced on an earlier flight.

      1. yes, there could have been a thousand scenarios with the missing video player. point is, she’s just trying to do her job and find the damn thing. i think the issue is that people just want someone to hate on for no real good reason.

        1. I think the point is that the flight attendant failed to do their job properly (by actually making note of which seat had the player, at a minimum) and was taking it out on everyone in the plane.  I’m willing to cut people slack when their screw-ups inconvenience me, but when they’re inconveniencing me by holding everyone else responsible for their screw-up, then my sympathy evaporates.

        2. ” …people just want someone to hate on for no real good reason.”

          Liberty is good enough reason, Steve-O. As is dignity. As is legality. No matter how many times you repeat the contrary in here, those are perfectly wonderful reasons.

          Seriously, some shit-bag sky waitress wants to hold an entire plane hostage and you don’t have a problem with it? I guess you should just sit still if it happens to you.

          Also, nobody in this thread gets to comment until SteveR gets to comment again.

  10. I completely 100% agree with the fact that the attendant overreacted.  No doubt.  However, if I was on the plane, the dipshit trying to steal the player is WAY more to blame for any of this.  The attendant is trying to do they right thing for her company and there may be some blame headed her way if the thing gets stolen.  So I can’t blame her for overreacting.  Unfortunately, it’s not her fault that we live in a society that wants to steal everything not bolted down.  If I missed my flights etc, I’d be pissed, but not at the flight attendant or the airline.  But suing over this?  There’s the overreaction!  Maybe for the cost of being late – whatever that is, but not for “false imprisonment” – yea, let’s perpetuate the idea that we are all babies and we will cry and throw a fit until we get out way and our sense of entitlement is contained.

    1. You’re right. I enjoy being held accountable for the possible mis-deeds of strangers. I was at a football game once where they locked us in overnight because someone spilled a beer on someone. No, seriously, where does your line of reasoning end if not at the actions I can control?

    2. The flight attendant is the cause. The world would not end if the Airline loses a gadget it isn’t sure it had in the first place.

    3. Plus, anyone who thinks those piece-of-shit players are worth stealing should be hanged for having bad taste.

    4. So you think a misplaced gadget is reason enough to hold a whole plane full of people hostage?  A lot of those people are travelling for business, and you could easily be costing them a lot more than that device is worth.

      But by all means Alaska, let us just put our lives on hold while you clowns get your shit together.  Its not like I’m flying because I have somewhere I need to be in a limited amount of time.

    5. Ok, first of all, do we know it was even stolen?  It could have been misplaced, there was a miscount, etc.
      Second, you’d be fine with random people arbitrarily detaining you every time someone in the vicinity committed a crime (real or imagined)?  What if the crime was actually serious?  Surely a more serious response would be justified.  Every time someone was murdered in your city, would a city-wide lockdown would be appropriate?

  11. I just have to say that I fly Alaska all the time and have never seen or heard of this happening. Apparently, not noting the seat number has been a policy that has worked for thousands of flights. The attendants on AA are usually top-notch, too.

  12. instead of calling 911 (the police probably wouldn’t do anything, under these circumstances, even if they could), before you fly, right down the contact info for the airline’s PR department, and call them instead.

  13. Interesting. I flew Alaska for the first time in late Feb. On the flight back from Kauai, as we neared the Oakland CA airport, the flight attendant pleaded several times for the return of a single missing digiplayer. No threats to keep us on board indefinitely, but it made me wonder whether they might frisk everyone as they left the plane. That didn’t happen, either. Seems like Alaska needs to come up with a better system for tracking the distribution and use of these things… Ultimately, it could be as simple an explanation as whoever had the last one didn’t speak English and couldn’t understand the repeated demands for a return. Probably not, but who is lame enough to put everyone on a plane through that kind of an ordeal? Maybe a search of Ebay will reveal the culprits…

  14. I think the best thing you could do is send a text about it to BB.  also, she s clearly a terrorist and should be put on the no fly list.

  15. Technically, they’re called digEplayers and you either reserve them in advance or rent them in flight.  I know Alaska is a “cashless cabin” so why not just charge the full replacement cost to the credit card of whomever didn’t check theirs back in instead of holding the entire flight hostage?

    I’m also thinking this is a case of miscounting the number of them on-board before take-off.

  16. What an odd setup. Apparently you reserve a digEplayer through digEcor and not through the airline. (Although it’s hard to be sure, since the digEplayer site seems to be branded by Alaska Airlines.)

    Dug around through the digEcor products and services pages, but saw nothing specific about who’s liable for unreturned units. Guess that’s info left for the sales rep to spring on your company. (With the “turnkey” service, maybe it works like gas stations where the clerk gets charged/disciplined for drive-offs; could the flight attendant have lost her grip from fear of a penalty?)

    Not hard to see why this hasn’t taken off…lousy selection, especially since you’re allowed to bring your own gear.

    1. yep. everyone on the plane should sue for 50 million dollars for emotional distress. the airline should go bankrupt and the flight attendant should be thrown in in a maximum security prison for 3000 years along with every member of her family. it’s the right thing to do.

      1. Or the airline should train their employees better.

        What if this had happened at a WalMart?  Say someone stole $100 worth of small consumer electronics, and the cashier declares that no one is getting out of the store until it is returned.  Would you still think this was acceptable?

        1. Obligatory authoritarianism:  Tolerating crimes at Wal-Mart won’t result in planes crashing into buildings the world over, ending civilisation. Tolerating crimes on airlines just might, so the people who are protecting us must be allowed to do their jobs without ever being questioned.

        2.  I was recently in a CostCo and there was a power outage, the lights went out, the tills were obviously dead. We had already paid and were on our way to the door when it occurred. The people at the entrance that compare your receipt to your cart closed and locked the gate. It was only a few minutes before a supervisor told the idiot that they weren’t allowed to do that, and then the power came back anyway…but it seems like a standard response, for some reason.

      2. Well a heartfelt apology and some forward-thinking on what to do in these kinds of situations (which will inevitably arise, humans being what they are) would go a very long way.

  17. “I’m an American! If you make me wait one minute longer than necessary I’m going to sue you! But first I’m going to call 911 and tell them you’re kidnapping me!”

    1. Well I’d agree with this in 99% of the cases but not here. It’s perfectly clear what happened. Taking judicial powers into your hands, depriving people of their freedom just because you can’t find a goddamn piece of your  gear… Well mate, you are in for a shitstorm and it’s not like you’ve not seen it coming. Amazingly, it’s not a case “we’re ‘murrincans” here.
      Actually if the guys “rebelled,” and overtook the airplane from the crew by force in order to be able to escape, they’d be more within the legal (and moral etc etc) limits than what the AA creeps did there.

    2. Actually it reminds me of an incident where I parked my car on a spot a guy living in a nearby house considered “his” although it wasn’t clearly marked or anything. He then parked his car in a way that I was blocked and couldn’t get out. He said that it’s his place and he is not going to move his car because I am the evil bastard parking on “his” place (which even wasn’t marked at all, not to mention that it cannot be “his” in public spot AND there were like 10 more free parking spaces around)
      Anyways, I said “right, fuck you buddy” and called the towing service which happily showed up and charged him 400$ for towing his car 5 yards away. Yes I enjoyed myself immensely waiting for that tow truck to arrive and the sight of him running out of his house in slippers in the snow, at night, was absolutely priceless. I’ll cherish it till the day I die.
      The point? Dunno, you make it for yourself.

      1. I got into a shouting match with someone over “their” parking spot on the public street a few months ago. They threatened to call the police, which was funny because the only thing vaguely illegal was his threat of physical harm – in fact I wanted him to call the police so that they could explain to him that I could park anywhere on a public street but my girlfriend (whose house I was at when parked in that guy’s spot) stopped me from continuing the argument.

        So I started parking on the other side of the street… and got threatening notes taped to my car from the person with the house on that side about “their” parking spot. Then in my own neighborhood at the time, it happened again and I had to park a couple blocks away from my house most trash days.

        I guess the lesson is: careful where you park in the side streets of Garden Grove and Fountain Valley, CA (elsewhere in Orange County it’s generally not a problem).

        1. I’ve seen that behavior several times in Palm Springs, except it’s not that it’s their parking space; it’s just that they feel that nobody should be allowed to park in front of their house. They have a two+ car garage and a driveway that fits six cars, but they feel that they own the view of the gutter.

    3. Oh, interesting.  So Non-Americans don’t mind being detained indefinitely without due process.  
      Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about GITMO!

  18. Whole bunch of things wrong with this scenario.

    Sadly, my first reaction was surprise that they had players that weren’t actually built into the seat in front of them like every airline I’ve been on in the past couple of years. Nothing like a lack of portability to prevent theft too since there’s a flaw in their inventory system here.

    And then surprise that people would rent them given the ubiquitousness of iPod, PMPs, eBooks and ,y’know, books.

    1. So you’re saying Alaska should install media players in every seat despite evidence most folks bring their own?  Sounds like a solid business decision.

  19. lets just say (hypothetically obviously since nobody commenting was actually there, no matter how opinionated) that someone genuinely didnt return it on accident… say they maybe just stuck in to the seat back or something along those lines.  Then over the loud speaker comes the flight attended admonishing whoever did not return the player and implicates them as the source of trouble for everybody else.  Now the person realizes that they are the one who forgot to return the device and have a conflict over speaking up or avoiding further embarrassment.  Does the person then return it in shame in front of everybody in the whole plane, reduced to a childlike criminal who has no moral compass and ruined everyone’s day (and can they  later sue the airline for mental anguish over the situation), or do they stay silent and pretend they are oblivious to the device shoved down into the seat back in front them and hope to god they get out of the situation without being embarrassed.    you know, hypothetically, what would this person do…

  20. “911, What’s your emergency?”
    “Help! I’m being kidnapped!”
    “Ok, what’s your location?
    “We’re at Sea-Tac airport! Please help!”
    “Can you describe your kidnapper?”
    “She’s about 5’8″ with silver wings pinned to her uniform!”
    “You mean you’re calling because a flight attendant is delaying the de-planing procedure?”
    “Yes!! Send a S.WA.T. team or something!”
    “But I’m an American!!! I served in Desert Storm!! I love Freedom Fries!! I’m gonna sue you!!!!”

    1. Well actually the caller would be perfectly right. The fact that the 911 operator would most probably react as you wrote is a matter of concern. You know, the laws are not written so they can be discriminately used only for the benefit of “some parties”. The point of the “rule of law” is that it is applied to everybody exactly the same, regardless of whether they’re burnout homeless drug addict pedophiles or multi-billion corporate church-going CEOs financing schools in Africa. Exactly the same. Anything else is NOT rule of law but something else… Something that can turn really nasty on the flip of a dime.
      In short, goodbye Age of Enlightenment, hello New Feudalism.

    2. so, you’re saying crimes are only committed by criminal types; when apparently legitimate authorities overstep the law, we should suck it up.

      The fact that you can construct a strawman of a hypothetical 911 call doesn’t make detaining passengers like this legitimate.

    3. Yes, this seems absurd because you’re leaving out absolutely necessary parts of the conversation. The correct script starts like this:

      “911 What is your emergency.”

      “I’m currently being unlawfully detained under color of authority by [Walmart security|the crew of AA flight 1040|monsters form the vasty deep]. I’m aware that it is my right to use minimum necessary force to interrupt this crime in progress, but I’d very much prefer not to do so. Can you please send a patrol car right away to help contain this escalating situation before it reaches that point?”

      At least in my neighborhood, experience says you’ll probably get a police presence and a “do you want to press charges?’ even if you stop after the first sentence to tell the operator that the criminal has backed down. You may very hear sirens in the distance before the operator gets a chance to ask his or her second question.

  21. The flight attendant’s announcement to our passengers onboard this flight was inappropriate and did not follow our procedures. The video player was located before the flight landed in Miami and passengers were never detained or delayed. In regards to the suggestion that we note the seat number of passengers renting these devices, our flight attendants are trained to do just that when renting the video players. This step was not followed on this flight. We are following up with the crew of this flight to make sure they understand our procedures. We apologize for any alarm this caused passengers onboard this flight.      

    ~ Bobbie Egan, Alaska Airlines spokesperson

  22. Come on people, do you REALLY think the Flight Attendant was serious? Sounds like a poor attempt to use sarcastic humor to make a point or rather a request.

    Sorry to dissapoint all you brilliant ones with your idea but the seat numbers ARE recorded at the time of rental on those annoyingly slow devices. I don’t suppose YOU ever switched seats during the flight???

    Sound like someone needs to create some drama and excitement in their life by making something out of nothing. Kidnapping? FAA violation? You wanna know what is a FAA violation? (listen up privileged special cell phone and gadget users—and you know who you are) Not turning off ALL portable electronics when asked MUTIPLE times so the flight attendant can CLOSE the boarding door. Not airliner’s rule to enforce; the FAA’s rule to enforce.

        1.  Well if you had, you would have to reconsider your comment, and you haven’t. For whatever reason the seat numbers for the player rentals were not recorded on this particular flight, and the airline is fully admitting they made a mistake and is going to do something about this particular crew.

          Even if it was an attempt at humor (which I don’t buy for a second), it’s still unacceptable. The airline realizes this, yet you’re attempting to defend the tact-impaired flight attendant anyway.

          That’s Antinous’ point!

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