Feb. 7, 2013 at 11:27 AM ET
A flight attendant who was fired after a photo of an obscene gesture directed at airline passengers went viral will apparently get her job back.
Tatiana Kozlenko will be reinstated at Russian carrier Aeroflot, although she will be on probation for six months, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported on Wednesday.
Aeroflot did not respond to requests for comment.
The photo at the center of the controversy shows someone who appears to be dressed like a flight attendant giving the finger to a cabin full of passengers. The image does not show any faces.
The photo showed up in 2011 on Kozlenko’s wall in Vkontakte -- a popular Facebook-like social media site in Russia -- but it wasn’t widely seen until last month when a well-known Russian blogger posted a link to it on his Twitter account, TV network Russia Today reported.
The image soon made its way into the corporate offices of Aeroflot. On January 28, the airline acknowledged that the blogger drew their attention to the photo and began responding to reports that it had fired the flight attendant.
In a series of tweets, the carrier confirmed “T. Kozlenko” no longer worked at the company, adding that she “pleaded guilty” and that the photo demonstrated her attitude toward her duties.
“All our passengers are equally deserving of respect and attention,” Aeroflot tweeted.
But Kozlenko struck back on her Vkontakte page.
“I don’t consider myself guilty! The photo was added to my page, I only tagged myself on it!!! The hand isn’t mine, the plane is not my company’s!!! I don’t understand what they spoil my life for!!! I’m asking you for help and support!!!” she wrote, according to Russia Today.
In announcing its decision to reinstate Kozlenko, Aeroflot said she was able to prove her sincerity and professional viability, according to RIA Novosti.
Veteran flight attendant Heather Poole said 99 percent of flight attendants know better than to post such a photograph on their social media accounts. It damages the reputation of the airline, regardless of whether or not the finger belongs to the flight attendant or a coworker, she added.
“Airlines are very strict about their image. It's why most of us don't post photographs of ourselves in uniform on our own personal Facebook pages,” said Poole, author of “Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 feet.”
“One false move and we're gone. Buh-bye. Adios. Sayonara. No one is willing to give up their flight privileges for a few laughs.”
Poole, who has more than 86,000 followers on Twitter and maintains a blog, never names the airline she works for on those sites. She assumes her employer is watching everything she posts.
The gesture in the photo that got Kozlenko fired may be crude, but the sentiment is likely shared -- silently -- by many flight attendants frustrated by crowded planes, cranky passengers and smaller crews handling the same big workloads.
Some reach a breaking point.
Not-so-silent flight attendants include Steven Slater, who deployed an emergency chute on a grounded JetBlue plane, grabbed a beer and slid down to the tarmac after an altercation with a passenger in 2010.
More recently, American Eagle flight attendant Jose Serrano became upset when passengers started complaining after bad weather grounded their plane for hours last summer. Serrano then challenged passengers to leave if they dared, prompting an apology from the airline.