Delta Air Lines, having gained a reputation lately for its smooth and agile public relations, may have bitten off more than it can chew after firing a very senior Flight Attendant who has worked for the airline since 1962. All over a carton of milk. Or was it?
Ida Gomez Llanos, 79, has been a Flight Attendant with Delta Air Lines for 59 years. She was raking in a sweet USD$250,000 per annum plus perks. But a stellar career has ended in a mire of litigation and ‘he said, she said’ allegations.
It’s a tough gig as a flight attendant
In April 2019, Ms Gomez Llanos was suspended (and later fired) for taking a carton of milk off a plane. Things get a little murky here. In her lawsuit, Ms Gomez Llanos says she bought the carton of milk at a supermarket before flying. But then she told The Daily Mail that her line manager gave her permission to take the milk off the plane.
There are also scurrilous allegations of fabricated reports by management, of cereal packets going into handbags, unauthorized chocolate bars eaten, and cups of coffee been upgraded with a top-up or two of Baileys.
If I had to smile and be nice to everyone for 59 years, I’d want more than a slug of Baileys in my coffee to keep me going.
The core of the problem seems to be Ms Gomez Llanos’ long-time incumbency and the stated and unstated perks that went with that. She was based at LAX where she was very senior in Delta Air Lines’ flight attendant pool. She was earning more than four times the average salary for a Delta flight attendant and got her pick of shifts and overtime.
However, it appears not everyone at LAX was thrilled with Ms Gomez Llanos exalted status at Delta. Younger, less financially rewarded colleagues who had to work in coach and local managers were said to be wearying of her and her profile. In June this year she was fired for stealing a carton of milk.
Not going quietly
But Ms Gomez Llanos isn’t about to quietly shuffle off to the flight attendant’s retirement village to play canasta and drink all those miniature bottles of booze any self-respecting FA would have been stockpiling over the previous decades. She’s suing Delta Air Lines, alleging an “ageist smear campaign by colleagues envious of her salary and perks.”
Ms Gomez Llanos is alleging wrongful termination based on age, gender, and other, more hard to prove factors such as jealousy and cost-cutting. According to PR Newswire, Ms Gomes Llanos has complained of being harassed and discriminated against for years, but airline management did nothing.
“Llanos, as the lawsuit alleges, earned highly coveted work-related privileges as a result of her years of service that caused resentment in younger staff who were vying for the same privileges, which led to various forms of retaliation. The perks Llanos had earned included the ability to be first to choose flights, as well as the ability to take on additional flights.
“Prior to her termination, Llanos experienced age and sex-based discriminatory, retaliatory and harassing conduct by supervisors and coworkers, as well as bullying and false accusations by coworkers. Despite lodging written complaints to the company, the conduct Llanos sustained was not remedied.”
A spokesperson for her legal team at Shergerian and Associates, Carney Shegerian, said;
“Ms Gomez was a loyal, diligent, hardworking Delta employee for more than five decades.
“Delta’s alleged actions should not be tolerated, and it must be held accountable for the discrimination, retaliation and harassment alleged in Ms Gomez’s lawsuit.”
Spot of previous form here
Back to the aforementioned cereal incident. There was an allegation in 2018 that Ms Gomez Llanos was saving on grocery costs and took nine cereal packets off a flight. She claims it was staged sabotage by jealous colleagues envious of her. Nonetheless, she received her first write up in 55 years and, after further warnings, was placed on probation early this year.
Then the milk thing happened.
In a statement, Delta Air Lines said;
“When a violation of company policy is identified or inappropriate conduct is reported, Delta conducts a thorough investigation to determine the course of action – considering many factors, including the employee’s overall performance record and length of service. Decisions like these are not made lightly or without a comprehensive review by many.”
Who knows what went down or what was said in that hotbed of politics that is the LAX Delta Air Lines flight attendants pool. As for Ms Gomez LLanos, it was probably a mix of human nature, entitlement, jealousy, misunderstandings, and being time to go.
By Andrew Curran