Mostly I’m seeing people agreeing that Elan’s first commentary-tweets were ok but his actual confrontation of Diane was not ok, but I’m also seeing a sizeable faction insisting that Diane deserved everything Elan dished out to her and perhaps more.
So I think we need to think about passenger ethics a bit.
Suppose Elan had been sitting next to Diane, as opposed to several rows behind her. Assuming for the sake of argument that she was being actively rude to the flight attendant, and/or that she was being obstreperous enough to annoy passengers all around, I think it would be ok for Elan to say, mildly, that we’re all upset about the delay and the flight attendants really can’t do anything about it, so how about we all try not to make it worse for each other. Something along those lines. I think it would be ok for him to try to persuade her to pipe down. If he wanted to go the extra mile he could nicely offer to buy her a drink.
But that’s about it. It’s really the flight attendant’s job to defuse the situation, not the passenger’s, or the passengers’. Neither singly nor collectively are passengers responsible for enforcing etiquette on other passengers.
Suppose Diane was Don, and got violent. That’s a different story – then it might be right for passengers to intervene quickly.
Suppose they’re not on a plane, but a city bus, and Diane or Don physically attacks the driver. Then the passengers really should intervene, and fast, and together.
But what the actual situation was, assuming Elan reported it accurately (and that’s apparently in doubt, since he’s reported to have a habit of making up stuff for the sake of Twitter stories), was that Diane’s bad behavior had stopped, and that Elan took it upon himself to punish her for having behaved badly.
That is not acceptable. It’s not acceptable for a whole list of reasons. It’s none of his business; it’s not needed; he doesn’t know enough; it’s much more likely to re-ignite a quarrel than it is to teach Diane anything; he’s ignoring the likely meaning of her face mask; they’re all on an airplane, a confined space that they can’t exit; he’s not very good at ethics or manners himself; his behavior was incredibly intimidating. That’s not even an exhaustive list of the reasons his intervention was not acceptable.
So that’s a start on the knotty subject of passenger ethics.