Spirit Airlines flight attendant Ericka Paige Diehl found herself in trouble because a passenger objected to her taking a jet engine pic. (Photo: Ericka Paige Diehl)
Spirit Airlines is finding out the hard way: Don’t mess with the flight attendants.
After Spirit flight attendant Ericka Paige Diehl got into hot water for taking a photo inside a jet engine, fellow flight attendants from all over the country are flying to her defense. In a cheeky show of support for Diehl, they’re posting pictures of themselves in similar jet engine poses. Many of the pics have the hashtag #stewsforericka.
Says flight attendant Emily Witkop: “It is almost a rite of passage for flight attendants to pose in the engines of airplane. I would bet all of us on the field have at least one picture like this.”
“What’s the big deal?” says flight attendant and “Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet” author Heather Poole, who tweeted her own pic in support of Diehl. “We’re just having a little fun where we work, doing what we love most — working on planes.”
The controversy started when a passenger saw Diehl posing for the photograph while boarding a Spirit Airlines flight at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The passenger reportedly got Diehl’s name and looked her up on Facebook, discovering that Diehl had posted her engine pics online. The passenger then reported Diehl to Chicago ABC station WLS.
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Before you could say, “tattletale,” the story went national. Spirit Airlines told the Chicago station they’re investigating the photos, which the airline says “absolutely” went against Spirit’s policy.
As Diehl finds her story making national news, flight attendants — as well as pilots and other crew members — are making news with their online show of “stewardarity” with Diehl. “As you can see through Twitter, we are a very tight group,” says flight attendant Michelle Lazzarro. Yahoo Travel talked to some of these flight attendants about why they’re taking a stand.
Everybody Does It
“I do think Spirit is overreacting,” says Poole. “Airlines have spent years marketing flight attendants and sharing the exact kind of shots for over fifty years.”
A Long and Proud Tradition
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Heather’s right. This pic from 1968 shows a Scandinavian Airlines flight attendant posing in the engine of a brand new plane. She likely didn’t get in trouble.
Whew! Glad to Know the Engine’s Off!
(Photo: @keithwmcandrew /Twitter)
Keith W. McAndrew posted his engine photo, telling Yahoo Travel it’s a big part of the flight attendant tradition. “It’s a ‘privileged’ photo that depicts the evolution of the flight attendants, engines, and uniforms, he says. "It’s 'flight attendant pop culture.’"
Plus, while Chicago airport authorities say unauthorized personnel generally aren’t allowed on the tarmac at O'Hare (where Diehl took her infamous photo), McAndrew says there are ways around that rule to get that first engine pic. "MOST of the time, you’re invited by the captain or first officer to the tarmac and escorted by them to take the photo,” he says.
Just Following Orders…
Flight attendant Morgan Reed was one of those who got the captain’s OK for her jet engine selfie. “My captain is the one who took me out on the ramp to take the picture,” Morgan tells Yahoo Travel. “He said it was a rite of passage!”
“Ericka is simply every flight attendant,” flight attendant Lindsay tells Yahoo Travel. “We immerse ourselves in the culture, the lifestyle, the perks!” She’s also not too sympathetic to security arguments. “We go through background checks & fingerprinting and therefore have clearance to be on the tarmac,” she says. “The engines are not running when pictures are taken, therefore the risk/danger is minimal.”
Don’t Worry: the Engine can Handle a Photo Shoot!
Flight attendant Lauren McLaughlin tells Yahoo Travel, safety questions about Diehl’s jet engine picture are silly. “They’re made to withstand turbulence, bird strikes and 600 mph!” she says.
Execs Do It, Too!
(Photo: Southwest Airlines)
Southwest Airlines President Emeritus Colleen Barrett also took a jet engine pic in 2005. Barrett’s a legendary figure at Southwest so she can sit where she wants.
Now THAT’S How You Pose Inside an Engine!
What’s striking about #stewsforericka is that it’s drawing flight attendants from all airlines. “As crew members, regardless of the airline we work for, we are all one big family,” flight attendant Hugh Bonafield tells Yahoo Travel. “The negative press Ericka received for taking a very cute and harmless photo was totally uncalled for.”
“This is Your Captain Snapping…”
“Flight attendants can be escorted on the tarmac by pilots,” flight attendant Angela Crandall tells Yahoo Travel. “Pilots also serve as great photographers.”
A Question of Timing?
“Admittedly her timing could have been better,” former flight attendant Hannah says of Ericka Diehl’s pre-flight pic. “But even then it would be unfair to penalize her for something done so often.”
Pilots Have Diehl’s Back, Too!
Veteran pilot and “Air Travel and the Death of Civility” author Chris Manno tells Yahoo Travel why he’s posting in support of Diehl: “Because Ericka is emblematic of the unfair, asymmetric power relationship F/As are subject to.”
“There are thousands of these pictures out there in the world of flight attendants,” @Megandyno tells Yahoo Travel. “It’s not an easy shot to get, so do it if you can!”
These Kinds of Pics Just Suck You In
Sometimes the jet engine pic can get a little comical. “I don’t believe there’s a single crew member who would turn down the opportunity for an ‘engine picture’ if given the chance,” says flight attendant Tyler Herrick.
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