Air travel is stressful. From scheduling a flight that fits your plans, to arriving at the airport on time, to enduring a cramped seat and turbulence, traveling by airplane presents many challenges that driving to your destination does not.
It’s understandable, then, that people would be more tense, more irritable and more nervous when flying. But that does not excuse the egregious behavior we have seen manifesting as an increase in the number of unruly passengers and assaults aboard commercial flights.
Through May 25, the FAA has recorded 394 potential passenger violations. This is in comparison to 2019, when there were 146 potential violations, and 2020, when there were 183 potential violations.
Many of these incidents stem from passengers refusing to comply with a mask mandate aboard commercial flights. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, as masks have become an incredibly polarizing topic. But in the light of air travel, masks should be the least of passengers' concerns.
Show up hours before your flight is scheduled to leave. Pay for your luggage to fly. Buy a special document to identify yourself. Take off your shoes. Empty your pockets. Remove your laptop from its bag. Put all of your liquids in tiny bottles. Endure an unnecessary pat down after setting off the metal detector. Sit in a seat with so little leg room that your children complain of being cramped. Wear a mask.
Air travel isn’t convenient — it never has been. The FAA and TSA ask us to do a lot of things many of us would prefer not to do. But we do these things anyway because they are required if we want to board an airplane.
If you’re about to complain to a flight attendant about having to wear a mask for your entire flight, consider the host of other requests you’ve acquiesced to and then sit down and be quiet. Do not create an incident, and do not assault your flight attendant as one passenger did aboard a Southwest flight, when she punched the flight attendant in the mouth — knocking out two teeth.
Assaulting anyone is a horrible crime to commit, but assaulting a flight attendant while an aircraft is in the process of transporting passengers is especially dangerous. Not only does the individual flight attendant suffer, but if rendered unable to perform his or her duties, then the entire group of passengers who rely on flight attendants for instruction in the event of an emergency also face an increased risk.
That’s not to mention the undue stress you put on the rest of the flight crew and other passengers when you force the aircraft to divert because of your entitlement issues.
Flight attendants deserve better than the utter disrespect we’ve seen in the past year. Terrorism as we saw it on 9/11 is no longer the biggest threat facing commercial air travel. Entitled, aggressive passengers are transforming the safest form of travel into airborne boxing rings.
Rather than deciding to levy massive fines against these unruly passengers, the FAA and airlines need to commit the necessary resources to place more security and air marshals on flights. Passengers who are found guilty of assaulting flight attendants need to face strict consequences, including being placed on the no-fly list. Individuals who choose to endanger all of those around them don’t deserve the privilege of flight.
Why don’t we all just treat each other, especially those serving us, with the respect we all deserve? The golden rule isn’t something to be learned in elementary school and forgotten. It’s a great principle to live by.
Flight attendants don’t make the rules, but they do have to enforce them as part of their job. Give flight attendants the respect they’ve earned not only as someone trying to make your experience safer and more enjoyable, but as a human being. And if you're aboard a flight with an unruly passenger, please support the flight crew. They could use the help.