During an 8-hour flight in Business class, I called the flight attendant "Ma'am" to get her attention. My husband then told me that I should not have called her "Ma'am" since I am the "the ma'am" (the customer). Is he right?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is asking more about conventions of the English language and would thus be better asked at English Language & Usage or English Language Learners. – Jan Feb 4 '17 at 0:17
  • Interesting question. As far as I know the controlling reference would be Debrett's. I don't know if there's an entry for flight crew, but if not you would use the nearest entry. Voting to reopen. – Gayot Fow Feb 4 '17 at 9:20
  • 'Excuse me' is the norm. Kind of a pointless question, glad it's closed! – Pete855217 Oct 6 '17 at 5:26

Ma'am is not an entitlement, it is a polite way to address any adult female. Your husband was wrong, as both you and cabin attendant can use the term.

And contrary to some of the younger responders is not an outdated term, as it is in common usage still in many parts of the English speaking world, except maybe the connected generation where politeness has been forgotten.

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  • Which parts of the world is it in common usage? – vclaw Feb 4 '17 at 16:47
  • @vclaw - the midwest & south in the USA, parts of Canada for a start. – user13044 Feb 5 '17 at 0:33

What you said was fine. You did nothing wrong and were polite and respectful (and formal).

It would also be fine to say "excuse me" or simply signal visually for the crewmember's attention as they pass down the aisle.

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YES. In current English, it is perfectly acceptable to address the crew with Sir or Ma'am.

If you took chance to remember the crewman's name, you can use that as well. Note that some crew have their surname on their name tag, such as Ms. Janeway.

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That is extremely old mannerism. It is 2017. You were right to call her "ma'am", "miss", etc. And she could have called you the same. There is no difference, it is simply a polite way of addressing someone who is a stranger.

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    I guess you mean the husbands comment is old mannerism, not the use of "ma'am". – Willeke Feb 4 '17 at 10:45
  • @Willeke Yes you are correct. I was just a little taken aback when I read the question because again, its 2017... :) – Michael Feb 4 '17 at 14:34

It is quite old fashioned and overly formal I guess. It would be fine to say "Excuse me" while they pass by you.

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