Ex-Boisean gains fame for post about airline booting boorish passenger

Alaska Airlines will fly from Sacramento to Kona on the big island of Hawaii starting in December.
Alaska Airlines will fly from Sacramento to Kona on the big island of Hawaii starting in December. AP

When Amber Nelson boarded a flight at the SeattleTacoma Airport Sunday, she was more focused on the flight than the people around her. The former Boise resident was busy watching the typical safety demonstration attendants gave before take-off.

But a male passenger in the row behind her changed all of that quickly, she wrote.

“Ooh, sexy,” he called out, as a female flight attendant demonstrated how to put on a life vest.

The man, Nelson recalled in a Facebook post, was surrounded by women: two sitting on either side, as well as another two women sitting with her in the row in front of him.

They “exchanged uncomfortable glances,” wrote Nelson, a Borah High School graduate who now lives in California. “Every woman I know has been through this kind of degrading experience. We were trapped on a plane with a guy who clearly disrespected women and saw us as his own personal entertainment.”

But the flight attendant herself stepped in.

“Before we could do more than glare in his direction, the flight attendant removed her vest, purposely walked up to him and said, ‘You need to be respectful,’ and started to walk back to her task,” Nelson wrote. “He said, ‘C’mon, I’m just playing with you!’”

She walked to the front of the cabin to talk to her coworkers instead, Nelson wrote, and a few moments later, another staffer entered the plane and walked up to the male passenger. Despite protesting — “I didn’t do anything wrong!” — he was led off the plane.

“It was everything we could do to keep from applauding as he was led away,” Nelson wrote. She could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The airline confirmed a passenger had been removed before a flight’s departure in an email to Fortune. “We stand behind the actions taken by our employees,” media relations manager Ann Johnson Zaninovich wrote.

Nelson, in her post, thanked the airline for acting on behalf of its employee.

“I felt honored as a patron of the airline - and as a woman - because Alaska Airlines supported their staff and those of us on board who were demeaned by another passenger’s juvenile and exceedingly disrespectful behavior,” she wrote.

And three days later she wrote that she was surprised by the flood of reaction to that post.

“It’s Wednesday and I’ve had an interesting week with more than 14k responses to my Sunday night post about Alaska Airlines respecting their passengers,” Nelson posted around 4 p.m. Wednesday. “Lots o’ folks have misconstrued and politicized what I’d intended as a simple note of gratitude. Hopefully, this post will cause less frenzy and maybe help folks be a little more thoughtful in their communications.”

The post linked to a Nelson blog post titled, “First, seek to understand.” Nelson is the president of Lingo Consulting, Inc., a firm “dedicated to helping clients learn and leverage their lingo.”

Statesman reporter Kristin Rodine contributed