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During a domestic flight, one of the flight attendants started making rather annoying praises of them being a fan of Disney and Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse' birthday, and asking whether anyone was going to visit Disney Land after arriving at LAX, which not a single person seemingly was. This continued for at least 5 minutes (or what seemed like eternity), over the PA system. He also mentioned his success of converting the other flight attendant to become a fan, and of his quest to convert the third one as well.

I was distressed of being subjected to this instance of an unexpected commercialism out of nowhere. If I knew I'd be subjected to 5 minutes of various praises for one of the most commercial objects to have ever been created, and the most hated character in the context of public domain sabotage (Disney heavily lobbied for copyright term extensions), I might as well have not have taken this very flight. From where I come from, one of my friends refused taking his girlfriend to Disney World, because of the negative connotations of Disney within the copyright world, so, it was very disappointing of having to endure the praises.

Is there any recourse? I was thinking about chanting, "SAY NO TO COPYRIGHT TERM EXTENSION LOBBYING FROM DISNEY", but I wasn't sure if that would have been allowed to do within an airplane or not. What would be the best course of action? Do flight attendants have an unlimited leeway of forcing the passengers to listen to their gibberish that are completely unrelated to their duties?

  • Did you lodge a complaint with the airline, giving your flight number and possibly the name of the flight attendant? I don't think there is any law against a flight attendant using the PA like that, other than company policies. – Ron Beyer Dec 2 '18 at 23:37
  • @RonBeyer, not yet, but I'm thinking that perhaps I should do that. – cnst Dec 2 '18 at 23:39
  • Migrate to interpersonal.se – Muze Dec 3 '18 at 0:36
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    You might find the following law review article interesting: The First Amendment Right Against Compelled Listening. This article does not argue that such a right has been recognized by the courts, but argues that it should be, particularly for government speech. If you sued the airline over this, you'd be striking out into uncharted legal waters; you're probably much more likely to gain satisfaction by complaining to the airline. – Michael Seifert Dec 3 '18 at 1:02
  • @MichaelSeifert sounds interesting and relevant; thanks for the pointer! – cnst Dec 3 '18 at 1:09
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Do flight attendants have an unlimited leeway of forcing the passengers to listen to their gibberish that are completely unrelated to their duties?

Pretty much, I'd say. It may not be a good customer experience, but the flight attendant certainly isn't doing anything illegal. You don't have a legal right not to hear speeches that offend your IP sensibilities. I don't think it's legally any different than if they were showing an in-flight movie that you didn't like.

If you try to forcibly stop him, you are likely to be found in violation of 49 USC 46504, which prohibits "assaulting or intimidating a flight crew member or flight attendant of the aircraft, interferes with the performance of the duties of the member or attendant or lessens the ability of the member or attendant to perform those duties". Even if making speeches about Mickey Mouse is not part of his duties, anything physical you did to try to stop him would likely tend to also lessen his ability to perform his actual duties. Violation of 49 USC 46504 is a felony and carries a prison term of up to 20 years.

If you try to shout him down, you might be charged with disorderly conduct under state or local law, like this guy.

You could probably push your call button to summon another flight attendant, and politely state that you object to the loquacious crew member's behavior, and could they please ask him to stop. Alternatively, you can put on your noise-cancelling headphones and turn up the volume on your music. Anything beyond that and you're in a bad legal position.

Of course, you can certainly file a complaint with the airline after the fact. There's a fair chance you'll get an apology, maybe some extra air miles, and the flight attendant might be disciplined or fired. But that's an internal customer service or personnel matter; nothing to do with law.

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  • Thanks for the pointers. Would chanting something to interrupt their gibberish be deemed as intimidating in the context of the statute you mention? – cnst Dec 3 '18 at 1:18
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    @cnst: It's not impossible. My understanding is that the "interference with flight crew" statute tends to be interpreted very broadly, and if you search you can find lots of examples of people who were charged under this law for acts that you might think were comparatively minor. But for merely chanting, I would think a disorderly conduct charge is more likely. Another possibility, if they see you as disorderly, is that they divert the flight to kick you off, and bill (or sue) you for the expenses of doing so, which are substantial. – Nate Eldredge Dec 3 '18 at 1:35
  • @NateEldredge: On top of that, if they remove you from the flight, you're probably going to have a long conversation with police or the FBI about why the captain declared you a "safety risk." After ~4 hours, they'll probably decide you're not a terrorist, charge you with whatever they feel like, and release or jail you as appropriate. And that's if you're lucky and they don't put you on the No Fly list. – Kevin Dec 3 '18 at 5:41
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Depending on your carrier, but it's not uncommon for U.S. Low cost carrier attendants to have a little fun with the passengers during taxi to/from the runway, even during a substantial delay in take off. Most of these flights do not have cabin provided entertainment services and the ones that do normally have them turned off during the ground portion of the flight service.

One U.S. domestic carrier in particular (Southwest) is famous for it's comedian crew and if you fly enough with them, you'll encounter quite a few who give humorous per-flight safety demonstrations or do them in voices of characters (Loony Tunes and Disney are common... though the later might be me... my experience with them is flying in and out of Orlando International... flights that typically have kids coming or going to Disney World. Loony Tunes characters tend to get better use because they have more distinct personalities than the main Disney Characters.). Pilot Banter over PA is not uncommon... I've been on a flight with a Captain who insisted he was Captain Solo and his Co-Pilot was Chewbacca ("Chewie" was not amused by this, but the cabin enjoyed the antics).

Many times, the chatty crews will usually be the result of a particular difficult flight or a long day with your flight being the last leg of the flight (Captain Solo was this, as was an experience where the Flight Attendant referred to the Call Button as the "Ejector Seat Button"... apparently the last group of fliers were very needy). Suffice to say, some times these moments are more of de-stress and detox for the cabin crew than they are to entertain the cabin... though they often do just that... flight attendant jobs are very high stress. No one loves flying or the people they fly with more than the people who have to serve these idiots their drinks and peanuts and alleged food. With a smile no less.

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