I have written before about the increasing number of incidents on planes where passengers have become unruly and even attacked flight attendants, who have now started taking self–defense classes. About 4,000 people have been banned from flying just within the past year because of their bad behavior, sometimes mask-related.
But I was surprised at the level of aggression shown by one woman who had unbuckled her seat belt and let down her tray while the plane was still taxiing to the gate, and was so infuriated by being told to rectify those measures that she jumped up and punched the flight attendant, so hard that she knocked out two teeth and bloodied her face so that it later required four stitches. Why would you get so angry over such a trivial matter?
I was impressed at the promptness and firmness of the passenger who jumped up and told the woman and her companions in no uncertain terms that they should immediately stop their bad behavior. I initially wondered whether he was an air marshal except that he was in a center seat and I would expect them to occupy aisle seats so that that can quickly go to any trouble spot.
The sense that these kinds of incidents have increased dramatically is not an illusion, with the numbers seeming to increase simply because we are focused on it and reporting them more. It seems like the return to air travel after the pandemic has brought out a real increase in passenger violence.
Airlines have reported about 3,000 cases of disruptive passengers since Jan. 1, according to a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, which began tracking it this year. About 2,300 of those incidents involved passengers who refused to obey the federal requirement to wear a face mask.
Over the past decade, the FAA investigated about 140 cases a year for possible enforcement actions such as fines. This year, it was nearly 400 by late May.
There have been periods in the past where air rage seemed an intractable problem, but later subsided. Long-time flight attendants say there was an uptick in unruly passengers in the 1990s. That led Congress to make it a crime to interfere with a flight crew, and incidents gradually declined, these cabin crew members say.
It is true that we live in unusual times given the pandemic and all. But even allowing for that, this kind of behavior is not acceptable.
johnson catman says
The article stated that the assaulter could get up to 20 years in prison. I doubt that will happen, but I hope she does have to serve significant time. It would only take a few cases where stiff penalties were enforced for people to learn not to do that.
Is this the natural consequences of people who are now allowed to have their own facts, meeting “the customer is always right” service? You notice they started screaming that the flight attendant attacked them first.
Hooray for the stranger who told her to sit her ass down and then turned to the flight attendant and said “I’ve got you, ma’am”. I suspect in that woman’s life, nobody ever told her to sit her ass down.
” I suspect in that woman’s life, nobody ever told her to sit her ass down”
With you on that. A lot of people first hear the word “no” from law enforcement.
Trickster Goddess says
Weird. I keep hearing the women’s friends saying “She came at her first” like this was some bar brawl that the flight attendant initiated.
I have a number of friends that are emergency helpers (Medics and fireguards) and they report that the number of attacks on them [i] while doing their jobs and from the people they are helping [/i] increased immensly over the last 3 years in our part of Germany. With middle-aged and older white people being the most common attackers.
I really don’t understand …
johnson catman says
re Katydid @2:
johnson catman@1, “It would only take a few cases where stiff penalties were enforced for people to learn not to do that.”
Just like murder, terrorism, war & war crimes, pedophilia, rape, and so on. Stiff penalties — including, in some jurisdictions, capital punishment — have all but eliminated such commonly-agreed-horrendous crimes.
johnson catman says
re blf @7: What she did was definitely assault, but not comparable to
I would bet that if a few people got convicted and imprisoned for bad behavior on planes, and never being allowed to fly again, the bad behavior would decrease significantly.
The difference between that list of crimes and assault in a flight attendant is this : EVERYONE knows that most people who commit a crime on that list never get caught or punished. Everyone also knows that people who assault flight attendants NEVER get away wroth it (how could they?) and often get YouTube famous. Make a couple of them more famous by giving them a ten year sentence, put a photo of those people at every departure gate, and watch the rate of assault fall.
Then again, so serving alcohol on planes… ditto.
“stop”, not “so”
John Morales says
Actually, there’s good reason to believe that the way people act in the grip of bibulous indulgence is primarily culturally-determined.
Marcus Ranum says
It would only take a few cases where stiff penalties were enforced for people to learn not to do that.
The justice system is not a very effective deterrent, though. “How to behave” training (good parenting) works better.
johnson catman says
Marcus @12: We are WAAAAAY past the point of good parenting in the US. Everyone considers their little angels the bestest, most talented, and most well-behaved child on the planet, yet somehow they turn out to be Trump clones. I actually think that preventing them from EVER being allowed on a plane again would do more to incentivize better behavior than putting them in jail.
“I hope she does have to serve significant time”
And how exactly will this help to solve the problem?
Or perhaps you just want to satisfy your feeling of moral superiority?
“I would bet …..”
Good luck. You bet against scientific conclusions. All relevant research agrees: what helps is increasing the probability of being arrested, not the harshness of punishments. The theory behind it is well known. Especially during such a rage people only think of the short term and neglect long term consequenses.
But I suppose you have more faith in your underbelly instincts.
John Morales says
Your question was answered in the very next sentence: “It would only take a few cases where stiff penalties were enforced for people to learn not to do that.”
In short, deterrence. That’s how.
You misapprehend; if it were a case of 100% arrests but only (say) a small fine as a consequence, that would also not deter. The consequences do matter.
In this specific type of cases (incidents inside an aircraft) there’s no real chance of not being caught, so your objection is doubly inappropriate.
The answer to the question in the title is: long term stress. Covid can cause that. Believing your place in the universe is being usurped because people are having babies that won’t look like you when they grow up can do that. Thinking your country has been hijacked by a fake election and your real president is swanning about Mara Lago being useless can do that. Being confronted with facts that shhow your viewpoints are wrong and you might be risking your life on someone else’s political point can probably do that, too.
All I can say is: congrats, now you have an inkling of what it’s like to be poor. Always something to be stressed about. Wondering what your situation will be like next week. Or if you’re in a pinch, tomorrow. Wondering whether the people you depend on will handle the same stress you do and pitch in their share of the rent/food/whatever.
Isn’t it odd how poorly the “Bootstrap yourself out of poverty!” crowd handles similar stresses in their own lives?
@John Morales #15:
There are already crippling consequences. That flight attendant can sue the woman who hit her for at least her medical bills. Medical bills are steeper than fines. The consequences didn’t stop her from attacking the flight attendant. Sure, after the fact she wishes she hadn’t and so do her friends. That’s why they would insist that she didn’t attack the flight attendant first. I understand the “tough in crime” idea can sound attractive but it just does not work. Never has. You can see it right here, all you have to do is look and accept what you’re seeing: a woman lashing out in the moment without thinking and regretting it enough to spin a false narrative shortly after. Consequences are an afterthought.
John Morales says
lanir, your response to my comment is orthogonal to what I wrote.
(I was addressing mnb0’s contentions regarding Johnson’s comment)
That should be ‘tough on crime’, and your naive opinion is duly noted.
I wouldn’t discount the influence of Trump. For more than four years, we’ve had the example beamed at us all of someone who, as his wife said, punched back ten times harder at any sort of request even, to not be completely selfish. He encouraged violent behavior whenever anyone was asked to restrain themselves even a little. I think that many people are acting on that example now.
The odd thing is that fastening your seatbelt and putting up the tray table during taxiing are federal laws, the airlines must enforce them, and they exist *only* for the safety of the person in that seat. Even when taxiing, you’re moving at about 45 miles/hour, and if the plane stops suddenly (this happened to me once, on a plane taxiing to the gate), without a seatbelt, you’ll be thrown violently into the back of the seat in front of you and crumple up into the footwell of the seat. If the tray table is down, your injuries will be even worse.
I had my seatbelt on and tray table up, so when the taxiiing plane stopped, I was whiplashed forward until my chest slammed into my thighs. If the tray table had been down, well, when my face slammed into it, that would have been bad.
So, these are laws that the airlines must enforce that were for this woman’s safety only.
I understood what you said. Your contention is that the harshness of the penalty makes a difference when people are considering actions that will accrue these penalties. This requires that people use logic to get themselves into illogical situations where they’ll be penalized. Sure there are niche cases where that may be true but this clearly isn’t one of them. Do you really think a lot of conscious forethought went into that woman lashing out at the flight attendant? Your position with regards to penalties would require it.
If you want to say this type of situation is an outlier then that’s another conversation. I’ve already mentioned my opinion on that, you’ve stated yours, there’s no real point in delving into it here. It’s a rabbit hole tangent so I’ll bow gracefully out of that discussion. But that debate is one that does have serious consequences for our society which is why it was worth commenting.
I probably won’t convince you of anything here (yes, I recognize your casual dismissal and lack of engagement for what it is and yeah, it’s the internet). But at the very least you should be capable of walking away with an understanding of why this incident in particular could be understood in a way that disproves your general assertion about the effect of consequences. Bonus points if you also understand why that’s worth noting.
John Morales says
Not in the slightest. But then, I was not referring to that specific incident — the equivalent of “road rage”, a momentary explosion of violent irrationality.
Again: I was specifically addressing the specific claim mnb0 made about the relative weights of the likelihood and the severity of enforcement when it comes to deterrence.
A specific claim which I quoted.
Heh. Perhaps you will walk away with an understanding of what I was responding to.