"He lived my fantasy. He is the Thelma and Louise of flight attendants."

“Every single one of my friends said, ‘Good for him!’ ” whispered an attendant wearing an American Airlines uniform who, like some others interviewed, declined to give her name, citing airline regulations and fear of losing her job. She has dealt with the cellphone arguments. The passenger bickering. She has pulled out the final threat: Do I need to call the captain? “You put on a smile and you treat them like children,” says the former schoolteacher. Don’t make her turn this plane around.

“Passengers can all be divided into four types,” says another no-nonsense attendant who has whittled the chaos of airline travel into logical precision. The four types are…