‘Turn back to civility’: Charlotte flight attendant testifies on air rage before House subcommittee

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte-based flight attendant Teddy Andrews started his airline career in 1981 as an intern in high school. He has worked as a flight attendant for American Airlines for the past 10 years.

“I thought what a way to see the world and do it for free,” he said. “I’ve seen places I could only dream of. I’ve been to Hawaii, Paris, London, five of seven continents. It has been amazing. It has been an amazing journey.”

One of his worst experiences in the air came earlier this year on a flight home from Chile. He told a House subcommittee meeting this week how a passenger’s refusal to wear a mask led to a disturbing encounter.

“He looked at me, and I will not repeat the epithet he used. He said, ‘N-word, I don’t have to listen to a damn thing you say. This is a free country,’” Andrews said. “I was completely taken aback.”

The subcommittee he addressed is trying to reduce air rage. Since the pandemic, news outlets, including Channel 9, have reported on numerous stories of people acting aggressively and dangerously in the airport or in the sky.

[PAST COVERAGE: Video shows man’s confrontation with gate agent at Charlotte airport]

During the meeting, the Queen City was singled out as one of the problem areas.

“We have had a lot of incidents out of Charlotte,” said Sara Nelson, Association of Flight Attendants.

Nelson also listed Florida and Texas as areas of concern.

Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee said he recently traveled through the Charlotte Douglas International Airport and noticed a lot of closed food stands but open bars. He wondered if that is playing a role.

“Why in the hell would they not give you food, but they will give you alcohol,” Rep. Cohen said. “It might be profit margin. It might be they don’t give a hoot, but the areas where they sell the alcohol are packed. The people are rowdy.”

[RELATED COVERAGE: FAA issues $500,000 in fines to unruly passengers]

As for the incident Andrews experienced, he said he managed to convince the hostile passenger to put on his mask.

This issue is personal for Andrews, because survived a serious case of COVID-19 last year. While he was in the ICU, doctors told his family it would be a miracle if he made it to the morning.

He’s still standing and using his platform to push for change and respect.

“I hope at some point we turn back to civility,” he said. “Let’s just do a better job at taking care of one another.”

Statement from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport:

“Our leadership is reviewing the testimony and is reaching out to Congressmen Cohen.

“Due to the national labor shortage, establishments that are open are based on availability of staffing. This staffing shortage is an aviation industry-wide issue.

“Some establishments are operating on limited schedules, which adjust daily based on staffing concerns. Our concessionaires work hard to address these issues in order to keep restaurants and other venues open. Some that remain open, especially later at night, are determined by passenger traffic in the terminal and in most cases, the number of passengers on specific concourses. All establishments sell food, but not all offer alcohol. The sale of to-go alcohol is not allowed.

“The Airport is working to assist our partners to address the staffing shortage. Last weekend, we hosted a job fair. Our concessionaires were represented and hired 46 people for various positions. Additional job fairs are tentatively scheduled for later this fall. We are hopeful the staffing will return to adequate levels in the coming months.

“The hours for our establishments are updated regularly. Here is the link for your review:

“In regards to unruly passengers, the safety and security of airport employees and customers is our number one priority. We rely on the airlines and CMPD to assist us in these situations. The aviation department has facilitated discussions between the airlines, law enforcement and the district attorney and continue to engage them on this issue. In addition, in partnership with the FAA, CLT has placed signage throughout the Airport and on various communications the penalties incurred for unruly passengers.”

(Watch the video below: 2 men fight over reclined seat on plane, detained at Austin airport)