I have been thinking about the incident in which a passenger viciously attacked a flight attendant who had told her to buckle up and put her tray away since the plane had not yet docked at the gate. This was just one of a large number of such attacks that flight attendants have been subjected to in the last year.
I posed the question as to why people exploded in rage like this but did not really answer it. I initially put this phenomenon down to the pent-up frustrations that people have these days because of the confinements caused by the pandemic. But on reflection, I think it runs deeper than that and is a manifestation of class attitudes that is a relic of feudalism
That attacks on flight attendants have increased may be to a basic misconception of what the role of the flight attendant is. Because we see them pushing the drinks cart and handing out snacks, people may see them as being part of the hospitality industry, like waiters and shop assistants, people who are there to serve the customers and make them comfortable. Such people’s jobs require them to be servile towards the customer and bite their tongues as much as possible when confronted with obnoxious people. They are expected to cater as much as possible to the whims of the customer.
But that kind of service is not the primary role of flight attendants. It is not their primary job to serve people and make them comfortable. The main responsibility for which they are trained is safety and security. All that stuff they tell us about buckling up, where the flotation devices are and how to use them, what to do in an emergency, the need to our trays away and put the seat backs up, and other safety protocols are their main tasks and, in the event of an actual emergency, they are trained to take decisive action to save lives. Serving the refreshments is part of their secondary duties, when the other tasks are not required
So flight attendants are not going to put up with people violating the safety rules and will insist on compliance. But people who see them like wait staff in restaurants may resent being told what to do by those whom they think are basically serfs. They may react as if a waiter told them what fork to use or that they could could not leave the table. It would be seen as an act of impertinence, that they have no right to tell you what to do.
I am not saying that viewing it this way makes these displays of anger and violence justified. One should not treat any wait staff or shop assistant or indeed anyone at all with anything other than courtesy and respect. But it may explain why flight attendants in particular seem to be experiencing such an increase in violence as people look for targets to vent their frustrations.