Airline apologizes after rejecting NCO's request to hang up uniform jacket

First Sgt. US Airways provoked a storm of protest after refusing to hang up the jacket of heavily decorated soldier, First Sergeant Albert Marle. Mandatory credit: WSOC requred link back should appear in story: (Photo courtesy of WSOC-TV)

A flight attendant’s reported response to a request by 1st Sgt. Albert Marle aboard a recent flight to Charlotte, North Carolina, led to a social-media explosion and an apology from the airline. (Photo courtesy of WSOC-TV)

An airline apologized over the weekend after a flight attendant’s reported refusal to hang up a decorated noncommissioned officer’s dress uniform jacket because the NCO wasn’t flying first class.

Passengers on the US Airways flight from Portland, Oregon, to Charlotte, North Carolina, on Thursday relayed details of the situation to Charlotte’s WSOC-TV and other media outlets. According to reports, 1st Sgt. Albert Marle accepted the flight attendant’s rejection quietly, but other passengers didn’t, including some in first class who offered their seats to the NCO.

Marle, 33, a member of the Virginia Army National Guard, is a Ranger- and Special Forces-tabbed soldier who entered service in 1998, according to Army personnel records. He refused the offered upgrades, WSOC-TV reported, and stayed out of the harsh words reportedly traded between the flight attendant and the passengers, some of which included claims by the attendant that the closet was full.

A second flight attendant later hung up the jacket, a passenger told WSOC-TV.

After a few days’ worth of build on social media – WSOC-TV said more than 1 million people saw its initial report online – the airline tweeted a short apology on Friday and a link to a longer one on Saturday, penned by Jim Palmersheim, a former active-duty and Reserve soldier who serves as senior manager of the Veterans and Military Initiatives Programs of American Airlines, US Airways’ parent company.

The incident “is not indicative of the core values of our airline,” Palmersheim wrote, outlining multiple projects undertaken by the airline to support active-duty service members and veterans.

“To be sure, we simply did not get this one right,” he continued. “We will always try to do better and work hard to align our core values … with the experience our customers have on our planes every day.”


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  1. Without disciplinary action taken on the flight attendant at fault, this apology is just typical corporate lip-service. Our country has been at war for 13 years, so that flight attendant has NO EXCUSE for treating a service member sworn to defend her life at the cost of his own with such disrespect.

  2. Soldiers are not supposed to travel in uniform anyway so this whole ordeal could have been avoided if this 1SG followed orders.

    • Incorrect. CONUS travel in uniform is authorized, however, it must not be done in the utility uniform (currently the ACU). The uniform worn by the 1SG is the Class A variation of the ASU, which is the Army’s dress uniform.

  3. Robert Gilchrist on

    I applaude the soldier for maintaining his professionalism and composure. Simply put, a disengenuous apology from an airline employee after the fact is just not enough and more importantly it is in my humble opinion evidence of a broader societal problem where the soldier’s as well as other military service members are concerned..

  4. Us airways and American Airlines should attend southwest school on customer service…I swear I have to fly American and US airways and miss southwest every time ….it’s really quite simple …you are in the hospitality industry. ..treat the customers with respect. …especially our service members…

  5. michael russino on

    I think that flight attendant should do voluntary service with the USO at her home airport and service all department of defense soldiers coming trough the airport and thank each and everyone of them for their service to our great country USA/RET

  6. @ Greg, military personnel have been flying in uniform for many years. Perhaps you live under a rock. What orders are you referring to?

  7. Actually Greg, soldiers are no longer allowed to travel in the combat uniform. Travel in Class A is still authorized depending on status and policies of the soldier’s chain of command.

  8. Jessica Carroll (SPC) on

    To the one saying that service men and women aren’t supposed to travel in uniform, sorry to tell you but we are allowed. There is absolutely nothing by stating that we can not. The only time it is not allowed is when travelling to and from another country on a civilian flight. I’m not sure where you are getting your information, but I think you really need to know the facts before sounding so arrogant.

  9. Greg, there are incidents when military personnel are still required to travel in uniform. It is rare but it does happen and often times it is not due to good news. So If you do not know the orders this 1SG had then don’t disrespect him by judging.

  10. Greg that stated the soldier wasn’t allowed to fly in uniform is wrong. I don’t know where he came up with this but obviously he’s not in the military.

  11. i think the stewdess should be ired and a public apology by her to the nco, i,m veitnam eraravet and i remembetr quite well the treatment we recieved on our return. this is totally unacceptsblee to some one securing and protecting out freedom, hang n there first sarbent i got ur back

  12. I don’t want to judge her. Maybe their policy is only 1st class passengers may use the closets. She could merely be following the rules. I don’t know but I don’t think not hanging someone’s coat up is worthy of firing her or any disciplinary action. Sometimes we just make mistakes or bad judgement calls. But again I don’t know the company policy on this issue.

  13. Yeah Greg, you need to listen to Carlos. You also need to check AR 670-1. You are not suppose to fly in battle dress uniform. You can fly in dress Blues unless the reg has changed since I retired from active duty in 2004.

  14. He may travel in ASUs if required by CO or Emergency Leave or Notification Duty or Escort, or if he just wants to I dont know why but oh well, which is fine……. But I would check out those skill tab metal replicas… I believe its left to right not one on top of another……Just saying. Im not a SF Airborne Ranger 1SG, but I did stay at Holiday in last night. And hands in the pocket OUCH! 1SG must have got him just for that ninja second!

  15. It is time that Flight attendants become Air hostesses again. Make the flying public feel welcome onboard of aircraft! They pay your salary afterall!

  16. combatVet4times on

    We all should be in one family as we all live and from a great nation that was given from our heavenly father..So please treat your people as they should be treated, especially for those brothers and sisters who leave their love ones to protect our nation from being attacked or smuggled. Love your soldiers is like love your own kids. God bless USA and all the people.. Flight attendant, I know we all make mistake all the times but if your the one who hate people, well try to find another job that it will fit you.. thank you we accept your apology..

  17. FYI Soldiers are allowed to travel in dress uniform. It is not recommended. But if he is on official business travel like funeral detail, casualty assistance Rep etc.

  18. Greg, some commands require their soldiers to fly in their class A uniform, such as the Recruiting Command. Been there seen and done it, have many T shirts.

  19. Soldiers can travel in uniform. It looks absolutely ridiculous to travel in ACUs, but they’re used to looking absolutely ridiculous anyways.

  20. Les Abbott(Msgt.Ret) on

    Greg, Your lack of military service is showing. It is we who have served who have the right to comment on wear of the class “A” dress uniform while traveling. It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than it is to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

  21. Goes to show the discipline and respect that Soldier had. He did not raise a fuss and he moved on. God Bless the civilians on the plane who said, “ah, hell no!” God Bless our country for caring about our men and women in uniform. I guarantee that Soldier has been in harms way and he deserves our utmost respect. Good on the airline for their honest response back. I’ve flown on US Airways numerous times and I’ve never experienced anything but true respect to our military members.

  22. To Greg (who originally posted on OCT 13), and SPC Jessica Carroll (who also posted on OCT 13): you are BOTH incorrect.

    As of 1 APR 2014, the US Army updated the policy on grooming standards and proper wear of the uniform. AR 670-1 clearly states

    “Soldiers on official travel and traveling by commercial carrier are no longer allowed to wear the Army Combat Uniform, or ACU. Instead, they must either wear civilian attire or the service uniform.

    The only ACU exceptions are when Soldiers are deploying, on rest and recuperation leave to and from theater and when authorized to do so by commanders for emergency leave or casualty assistance duties.”

    This is outlined in ALARACT 082-2014. You can see the press release here:

    SPC Carroll – consider yourself educated, and use this knowledge to build upon preparing to be an NCO. Greg – if you are in the Army, shame on you for not knowing the regulation and stating falsehoods about Army policy.

    – 1SG(P) Ross Bagwell

  23. Patrick Neavin on

    Though I do agree the 1SG deserved better treatment from the flight attendant, getting bent out of shape over this isn’t going to make matters any better. Honestly, I consider any “special treatment” from businesses I have ever received due to my status with the military to be a blessing….NOT an entitlement. I have come to realize after 13 years of service, that entitlements for service members aren’t always automatic, contrary to what people say. Businesses aren’t obligated to give servicemembers and vets special treatment. As much as we want to believe otherwise, there is no federal law that guarantees a service member or vet’s entitlement to anything and everything in society. Nonetheless, I will always grateful for businesses who treat service members with the highest honor.

  24. As for the comment that Soldiers are not suppose to wear their uniforms on flights, that is WRONG. In my last job, as with almost all Soldiers in recruiting command, we were REQUIRED to wear our uniform. I don’t fault the entire Airline for one persons action. Regardless if it was “policy” or not, this is a customer service organization and she definately needs retraining ….. no one should ever be spoken to like that!!!!!

  25. Thank you Patrick for your voice of reason!!
    After reading these comments, especially the ones calling for her to be fired or fined, I’m glad the 1SG reacted with professionalism.

  26. Yes, thanks Patrick. Your views are much like i’ve seen taught to public service positions such as law enforcement. I’ve never seen coach passengers store their coats/jackets anywhere but in overhead bins. Are these folks that are asking for the attendant to be fired, wanting the airline to hang the jackets of all coach uniformed service members? It sounds like people are equating “respect” with the hanging of the jacket. Therefore, what about the coat of the 80 year old retired vet in coach? Why feel so entitled to this coat closet or take this so personally that someone likely just doing their job should be fired?

  27. The only reason this guy traveled in uniform was the , “Hey, look at me!” Factor. As mentioned above, we don’t do that any more. I can’t think of a single reason why this 1SG would be in full dress uniform for a flight.

  28. The only reason this guy traveled in uniform was the , “Hey, look at me!” Factor. I seriously doubt someone with the WV Nat’l Guard had any reason to travel in full dress blues. Everyone knows deep in their hearts this guy was trying to get a bunch of people to come up and thank him in order to stroke his ego.

  29. The ASU or, so Greg understands, Army Service Uniform, is authorized for wear for travel, whereas the ACU Army Combat Uniform, is authorized for wear on commercial aircraft, to and from combat zones at the discretion of his Commander, i.e. stops in high risk countries.

  30. Matthew Cowell on

    I haven’t flown in my ASU’s sice basic training, but I have carried my uniform onto flights and asked the flight attendant if they could hang it up for me, and every airline in the country except U.S. Airways couldn’t be better about it. I have been repaetedly told it’s against their policy, which must be true, and for them to throw their own flight attendant under the bus for following their own stupid policy is pretty disingenuous.

  31. The ASU is authorized…, However, I have to immediately ask myself if I saw him why is he in ASU’s?? I would have questioned him on the spot if I was in the airport. That’s what senior NCO’s do.. Was he escorting a dead Soldier? Is he part of recruiting command (USA-Wreck)?

    The Army Combat Uniform (ACU) is only authorized by your commander or if you are traveling inroute from R&R. I fail to understand why this 1SG (if he really is one) wanted to wear his ASUs. I agree with ‘Stan’ and that he wanted his ego boosted.. sad case….

  32. My son is a U.S. Navy Seabee who has been deployed 3 times in the last 5 years. I find this kind of behavior appalling & totally disrespectful in the highest degree. Thank you pkite for clarifying on Greg’s comment. With all due respect Greg, they did not say that the soldier was wearing his uniform…only that he wanted his uniform jacket hung up. The soldier handled himself with the utmost class. Thank you for your service.

  33. Retired Army officer here. Another article quotes his parents as saying he was flying around the country for civilian job interviews wearing his uniform (which is pretty weird to begin with). If this is true, he is/was in a non-duty status and was wrong to wear his uniform. I personally have never worn a uniform while traveling except BDU/ACUs to go to one crappy desert war or another.

  34. Despite the people jumping down his throat, technically Greg is correct. Due to the recent threats, it was put out that even when simply driving to base soldiers are recommended to not be in uniform. If they are in uniform, they are not supposed to make any stops along the way. It’s for the soldiers safety.

  35. Us airways has a culture of no. It will be very difficult to break that culture. Senior level down are very combative to customers. They believe starting an argument is doing their job. When it comes to redeeming miles to hanging a coat, their first objective is to say no. Give it a shot. Ask them a question and you will get no. “Can I get a quick glass of water before takeoff”. No. I promise you will receive no 90% of the time. They don’t like people at us air.

  36. Too bad that flight attendant didn’t feel empowered to act on her own to assist that NCO in keeping his dress uniform squared away…by hanging it in their precious closet.
    L L Gillan, Lt. Col., retired

  37. @ All of you all. It is refreshing to see so much candor in this situation. Most of you HAVE read up on your AR 670-1 and it clearly stated the instances in which any Soldier is allowed to travel in uniform, specific to Class A or B etc. ACU, OCP etc are authorized when traveling to and from deployment and during official supported leave from the deployment areas.
    Shame on the airline YES for refusing ANY Solider’s request to hang a garment to maintain a military bearing and appearance upon arrival.
    Let’s just hope this practice has stopped of refusing a simple request.

  38. There are no “closets” on US 320 aircraft. Four hooks, one behind each last row in 1st are available, if not already taken. As the seat backs, if fully reclined, hit and rub the hanging garment, shedding any pins or other trinkets, the flight attendant likely did the individual a favor.
    It was the first class passengers, mostly cheap seats who never went to war, who raised a fuss. Cowards, each and every one. Instead of respecting the soldier’s dignity, they decided to make him the center of a circus, essentially stripping him of any dignity. Shameful behavior by anyone.
    I have seen agents fired in Parker’s circus for not closing the jetway door ten minutes early, leaving paying passengers behind. I am not surprised at the flight attendant’s response.

  39. I agree with everyone the flight attendant should have hung up his jacket. This guy most likely fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and all he asked kindly if she would hang up his dress coat and she said no, luckily i wasnt on that plane i would have yelled at the attendant and gave up my first class seat for this fine soldier.

  40. I get than US Scare is rude but why is this NG member, not on orders (per another article I read), flying around for civilian work job interviews, wearing his uniform? Yes, I’ve been to war…yada…yada..yada

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