Ok, what **IS** in the water these days!? In the air? In people's daydreams?
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about two high profile cases involving celebrities misbehaving on airplanes(see http://www.savvypassenger.com/?m=20110905). Now it seems that the general public is trying to get into the act...
This morning, it was reported that a passenger on a Delta Air Lines flight from SLC to LAS threatened to slit another passenger's throat with a knife over an argument regarding the armrest. When other passengers noticed that the culprit reached into his bag several times, and removed something as it was cupped in his hands, the flight attendants were notified and the SLC Police moved in, removed him from the flight, and after a search of the contents of his bag, discovered a 3 1/2 inch folding knife. He then proceeded to threaten the FBI agent who had joined the investigation!
Last week, on a flight from Majorca to Newcastle, UK, a 26-year old passenger suddenly felt the urge to attempt at opening one of the emergency exits at 36,000 feet, causing the emergency lights to come on, flight attendants to begin shouting their emergency commands and creating a panic among the passengers aboard. He had to be restrained with eight seat belt extensions before they diverted the flight to London’s Gatwick Airport.
And, of course, there were several tense situations on September 11, 2011, with suspicious incidents being reported at several airports, including the removal of three passengers in handcuffs from a Frontier Airlines flight from San Diego to Detroit (a flight that was met by fighter jets and escorted until they landed safely) and the remaining 116 passengers being detained and questioned by the FBI.
These are just the incidents that actually made the news. I have heard from several colleagues that they were involved in other cases where passenger misbehavior or suspicious activity was reported, and authorities called to the airplane for further investigation.
As with my earlier entry about other crazy stunts being pulled on flights, it should come as no surprise that in-flight crews, pilots and customer service agents are still on “high-alert” as it were, from the recent 9/11 anniversary. Still, whether or not that is relevant, the fact still remains that some people still don’t understand that a “higher standard” of behavior is still expected when traveling by air. Most crews can discern between rudeness and suspicious, but for the most part, they cannot afford to take chances in allowing any incident to develop into something bigger or more serious, especially when hurling through the atmosphere at nearly the speed of sound.
At times, the general public forgets that dissatisfaction is better communicated through letters or phone calls to the airline, rather than escalating it in the air. There are unintended consequences that might have to be faced should a tirade from a fed up traveler evolve into a higher level of emotion. Believe me; it doesn’t take much to move from “frustrated” to “taking justice into one’s own hands.”
In a somewhat ‘tongue-in-cheek’ blog entry, world-renowned travel critic, Peter Greenberg conveyed five sure-fire ways to get kicked off a flight, including dropping ‘F-bombs’ towards your flight attendant, to trying to assault a Presidential candidate! While some of it may seem humorous, this doesn’t even scratch the surface of other surefire methods of instant removal.
Several years ago, while working as a Purser from Los Angeles to New York City, I had the misfortune of dealing with a truly strange situation.
A female passenger approached me in the forward galley to inform me that a seemingly inebriated male passenger was making unwanted advances towards her. While she conveyed the story to me, she was very quiet, barely whispering the details to me when she told me that when she finally told him to ‘get lost,’ her retorted by bragging to her that she needn’t worry since he had a ‘bomb’ in his bag! Definite red flag! For certain, a ‘yellow card’ penalty of the first degree!
We immediately contact airport security. Our General Security Manager (GSM) arrived planeside and informed us that all passengers and their belongings, including all checked bags and cargo in the belly of the plane were going to be removed and rescreened. Two FBI agents appeared at the airplane door, and we directed them to the culprit.
As he was being questioned by the agents onboard, while being handcuffed right there in front of the remaining passengers on board, he exclaimed that he had told the woman that he had a “BONG” in his bag. The agents weren’t buying it. He was escorted off, along with his traveling companion, who just happened to be his boss and the CEO of the company the suspect worked for. I wonder if he was eligible for unemployment insurance under those circumstances???
The bottom-line is that there really IS an unwritten rule regarding behavior on board airplanes. While the general quality of the public’s set of manners continues to deteriorate, at some point the limits have to be established. Although Congress recently enacted the Airline Passengers’ Bill-of-Rights, that is certainly not a free pass for bad behavior on a plane.
It really boils down to patience, both from the passengers and the airline personnel that deals with the public. But should you find yourself in a showdown on words and personalities with an airline employee, be very careful. The majority of the time, you will end up with the ‘short straw’ in that contest, and the ramifications of removal from a flight may be too high a price for you to pay.
 KSL-TV News, KSL.com, Utah-Local News: “Airline passenger carried knife, threatened others, police say,” Dennis Romboy, September 21, 2011, http://t.co/ye04h5m4
 FoxNews.com, Europe-World: “Passenger Tries to Open Plane Door at 36,000 feet,” NewsCore, September 15, 2011, http://fxn.ws/ndy3fU
 The Detroit News, DetNews.com, Metro and State: “3 Passengers hauled off Frontier flight at Metro Airport,” Calvin Men & Mark Hicks, September 12, 2011, http://bit.ly/mRAXSz
 PeterGreenberg.com, “5 Ways To Get Kicked Off Flights,” June 17, 2011, http://bit.ly/njLe1o