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Plane returns to JFK after “waiter” tiff between Joel Ghansham, cabin attendant

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 July 2023, 7:27 by Denis Chabrol

Joel Ghansham

An American Airlines flight, destined for Guyana, returned to  New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport Tuesday night after a disagreement between well-known Indian cultural personality, Joel Ghansham, and a cabin attendant, he said.

Ghansham said the discord stemmed from him calling a cabin attendant a “waiter”, after which the AA staffer threatened to have the plane return to JFK. Ghansham said shortly after, the pilot told passengers on the intercom that they needed to buckle up as they were landing at JFK International Airport.

The flight, AA 2557, departed JFK at 7:53 PM Tuesday but at 8:35  PM, at an altitude of 35,000 feet, diverted and returned to JFK where it landed at 9:27 PM Tuesday.

He said after disembarking the plane he was approached by a police officer and a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent who asked him what transpired and eventually allowed him to leave the airport. Ghansham said he and other passengers are now scheduled to leave JFK on Wednesday. “They didn’t take a statement or anything,” he said.

Ghansham said the tension between him and the cabin attendant stemmed from his refusal to assist him to place his baggage in the overhead locker, although he explained that he had a surgery. “He said ‘no, I don’t do that’. He said ‘I don’t get paid that kind of money but if you don’t like it there is always another airline’,” Ghansham told Demerara Waves Online News.  Four months ago had a critical spine surgery to his neck, he said.

Another cabin attendant, he said, agreed to assist him after which he went to his business class seat.

A FlightAware tracker showing the AA flight returning to JFK Airport

Ghansham noted that the cabin attendant, who refused to assist him, later passed him, leaned his body backwards and asked “do you want something to drink?” rather than approach him directly. After asking him for a last time, with an attitude, if he wanted something to drink, Ghansham said, “no, thank you waiter.” “I called him a waiter and you can tell it irritated him…but he wasn’t loud because even rows three and four didn’t know what was happening. Nobody on the plane knew what was happening,” he said.  He said at the time of that encounter, he was still seated and there was no face-to-face encounter.

“There was not a disruption. I never got up. There was not an argument, there was not a confrontation, nobody touched each other. He was wearing a mask. He wasn’t even loud. It was just his pride,” he said.

Ghansham further related that the cabin attendant told him that, “I have the power to turn the plane” to which he responded “you must be God so you do it” .

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July 2023