In the summer of 2014, United Airlines, which has flights serving several Wisconsin cities, fired 13 flight attendants for refusing to fly on a trip from San Francisco to Hong Kong. The reason for the crew’s refusal to fly was an ominous message and drawings that had been scrawled into the dirt on the plane that was to make the flight.
The message said, ‘BYE BYE”, and was accompanied by two faces. One of the faces depicted a person smiling, and the other had what could be described as a more leering, evil look. The attendants requested that the passengers deplane and that United assign personnel to perform a security inspection of the plane, but the company refused.
The safety steps outlined by the Federal Aviation Administration and the company had already been taken. The pilots, safety leaders and mechanics decided the aircraft was safe to fly. The flight attendants disagreed, refused to fly and were fired for insubordination. The workers subsequently filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration hoping to send a signal that actions taken by employees in fear of their safety should be accommodated.
The business climate may be slowly evolving to the point where a whistleblower will be a valued asset for pointing out issues that a company needs to address. Often, it is the employees of an organization who are in the best position to be close to the unresolved and unsurfaced security and safety risks of a company and its customers. Until the day arrives in which employees are encouraged and embraced for bringing up issues, employees may be forced to fight to protect or regain their positions.
Source: Market Watch, “Fired United Airlines flight attendants say they were spooked by this message,” Trey Williams, Jan. 7, 2015