Six Nominees for Worst 2009 Airline Employee

You enter the airplane and there's the pilot, welcoming you aboard … except he seems to be a little, um, unsteady. What to do?

First, let me note for the record that the vast majority of airline and airport employees are terrific people who work very hard to keep us safe. It's just that, since I chronicled the antics of the worst passengers of the year last month, it was only fair to look at some candidates for the worst employee and we have some doozies.

Anyway, I've been collecting stories -- but keep in mind that the situations I'm about to recount are isolated incidents in the extreme. Some of these people are also just alleged to have done these acts but are included here because -- if proven true -- their actions qualify for this "honor."

Chances are, you will never meet anyone like these losers -- not in a lifetime of travel -- but just in case, see my tips for taming these folks. Ready?

For more air travel news and insights visit Rick's blog at: farecompare.com

Six Worst Air Travel Employee Nominees of 2009 (So Far)

1. Clueless Child Escorts: Earlier this month, two unknown Continental Express employees guided two youngsters, both traveling solo -- to planes that brought them to the wrong destinations. That's two "missing child" incidents -- in the same weekend. The airline apologized, blamed it on "miscommunication" -- and according to the family of 8-year-old Taylor Williams, offered them a voucher for a future flight. Question: Does that child really want to fly again anytime soon?

Tip: Have a family member travel with children under 12. If that's not possible, equip your child with a cell phone and make sure he or she knows how to use it. Finally, train your child to ask the airline escort, "This is the flight to XYZ, correct?" -- then have the child repeat the question to flight attendants and seatmates once on board the plane.

2. Cargo Traveler: Did you hear about the baggage handler who fell asleep on the job? Unfortunately, the JetBlue employee was in the cargo hold of a plane at JFK at the time -- which then took off for Boston. The 21-year-old man, who was not charged with a crime, said he woke up in midflight and called the office on his cell -- presumably to ask what to do (I'm trying to imagine his supervisor's response -- maybe, "Well, genius, I sure wouldn't open the door!")

Tip: I'm not sure I have a tip for something like this -- except maybe, choose your naptime spots wisely.

3. "Yesh-I-Can-Fly" Pilot: Passengers on Aeroflot flight 315 from Moscow to New York got a scare when pilot Alexander Cheplevsky began slurring his way through the pre-flight announcements. There was a mutiny, and the plane returned to the gate. According to the TimesOnline, airline officials denied the pilot was under the influence of anything, but one official reportedly then tried to reassure passengers that it was no big deal even if the pilot was drunk because "the aircraft practically flew itself."

The pilot said he celebrated his birthday with friends the night before, but says he didn't drink. The TimesOnline also reported that Aeroflot said tests revealed no trace of alcohol in the pilot's blood and the company later issued a statement saying that he could have suffered a stroke just before the flight.

Note: This incident took place on Dec. 28, 2008, but I include in my 2009 round-up since it wasn't publicized until this year.

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