Reasons Why Incidents are Occurring Aboard Airplanes
T here has been a spate of incidents which have been reported aboard airplanes in recent weeks which may cause a passenger to think twice before purchasing a ticket for a flight — such as:
- The passenger who was forcibly removed from an airplane operated by United Airlines and injured by law enforcement officers in the process
- An aggravated woman who caused the pilot of an airplane operated by Delta Air Lines to request that all passengers be removed from the aircraft after she refused to comply with law enforcement officers to leave
- A mother of twin children who was reportedly injured after an employee of American Airlines took her stroller by force, causing her to cry and outraged fellow passengers to the point where the employee attempted to goad one of the angry passengers to hit him
Reasons Why Incidents are Occurring Aboard Airplanes
It is important to note that these incidents are isolated. The chances of you being involved — or even witnessing — one of these incidents is thankfully remote. That certainly does not exonerate any of the guilty parties in any of these incidents — nor are they any less appalling. They are clearly inexcusable and unacceptable; and even one incident similar to the aforementioned examples is one too many.
Reasons as to why incidents are occurring aboard airplanes are as follows:
The airways in the United States are more stressful than ever for both passengers and employees, thanks to a number of different factors: airlines cramming more seats; enforcing policies considered unfriendly to customers; eliminating such benefits as interline agreements with other airlines; extensive delays and cancellations due to system meltdowns; and the ever present chase by airlines to become even more profitable — seemingly at whatever expense deemed necessary.
Employees who face customers — especially gate agents, ticket counter agents and flight attendants — are especially feeling the pressure from both customers and their supervisors. They are forced to play a game of tug-of-war in the seemingly impossible task of keeping both the customer and the employer happy — and these days, neither side seems to see things the same way.
That is obviously no excuse for those employees who misbehave or treat paying customers like animals or trash. Under no circumstance should an employee try to goad a customer into a physical fight; berate a customer; or touch a customer forcefully…
…and yet, thousands of people apply to try to become flight attendants — meaning that rogue employees need to understand that they can easily be replaced if they do not straighten up and behave appropriately.
During what is now known as the “golden age” of flying, passengers treated the experience of flight as a special treat — something for which they should dress up more formally and to which they would look forward.
The economy class experience of today has been compared to that of a flying bus — little to no food being offered; narrower seats; less seat pitch for less leg room; reduced service; long lines as only five of many examples — and many people simply do not look forward to it, as it is more of an ordeal than a special experience.
Critics will opine that passengers are simply getting what they asked for in terms of paying lower airfares — but with the introduction of basic economy airfares from the three legacy airlines in the United States, what is actually happening is that services are being cut witbout a reduction in airfare; while passengers must suddenly pay more money just to continue enjoying the same benefits they had before.
That is a classic case of treating people like cattle — and when any entity does that for a prolonged period of time, some people will act in an uncivil manner out of sheer frustration and eventually rebel.
Portable Electronic Devices and Social Media
Until the past decade or so, people did not travel with equipment capable of capturing motion photography. You did not see passengers lugging 8-millimeter film cameras everywhere with reels of blank sound film 30 years ago…
…but not only does virtually every person carry a personal electronic device capable of capturing video in high definition and sharp resolution with stereo sound — they can also transfer that footage almost immediately by uploading it to the Internet where literally billions of people can see it the same day.
Combine that with social media where anyone can call attention to just about anything, and that video has the potential of becoming viral.
Because video has become so prevalent, not just employees of airlines need to be careful — so do you. Act inappropriately just about anywhere on this planet and you just might find yourself plastered all over the Internet — and when that happens, getting the footage removed is virtually impossible.
If you do not believe me, simply search for videos of people who are angry, feeling rage, freaking out, failing, being “owned” or losing it. You will find literally thousands of videos of people who had no idea they were being recorded while misbehaving for one reason or another.
Unchecked Power is Now Being Checked
“Over the years airline personnel have been given almost god like powers in the name of ‘safety’”, according to this article written by Shawn Coomer of Miles to Memories. “I have personally seen this work in good ways with disruptive passengers quickly removed from planes and in bad ways with rude and borderline abusive flight attendants.”
Yess, many of those powers were necessary for members of the flight crew to do their jobs as efficiently and as properly as possible — and most of those employees are careful with how they use that power…
…but there are always a few rogue employees who tend to abuse they power they have — and the same could be said for those few agents of the Transportation Security Administration at airport security checkpoints; and especially for those law enforcement officers who forcibly removed a paying passenger off of the airplane in one of the three aforementioned incidents.
Power should never be abused under any circumstance. It should be handled with the utmost in responsibility and care for the customer — in an idealistic world, anyway — and the combination of portable electronic devices and social media is starting to ensure that abuse of that power is kept in check even though visual or audio recording aboard an airplane is technically against the policy of airlines in general.
Regional Jet Companies
I actually incorrectly attributed to the airplanes being operated by United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines for the three aforementioned incidents. Have you noticed that all three incidents occurred aboard regional jet aircraft? That means that the airplane was operated by either a subsidiary or a partner airline — and historically, they have always operated differently than the mainline carrier.
I have personally experienced what happens when things go wrong aboard one of those regional jet airplanes. If I call attention to my experience to the mainline carrier, I am told that I should contact the regional jet airline and that the mainline carrier has nothing to do with what happened — despite its name being part of the livery of the airplane — and the regional jet airline will defer to the mainline carrier.
Oh, what fun that is to experience.
Saying that regional jet companies operated better than in the past is probably a fair statement; but the experience still does not match that of the mainline carrier — with the smaller aircraft, reduced service and other factors which tend to potentially create an even more stressful experience, with more of an opportunity to result in an incident that has a fairly good chance of becoming viral.
What a heyday the media has in skewering the big bad multibillion dollar conglomerates known as airlines, which engage in a reduced oligopoly bordering on collusion — especially when it is deserved…
…but those incidents are indeed isolated for now — and again, each one of them is inexcusable and should never have happened.
One could ask if similar incidents have basically been happening all along — but that there was either no irrefutable evidence of fault; or the story may have been told differently where a judgment call had to be decided. Who knows? That is definitely possible but unlikely to be proven.
Unless airlines significantly change their policies and improve customer experiences, expect to see more of these types of incidents to emerge — not because they are necessarily increasing in number; but because the media has an insatiable thirst for reporting with sensationalism…
…and not only are viral videos as close to the perfect form of that sensationalism as possible; but people are virtually guaranteed to feed into it — which translates into more clicks without having to resort to click bait; and that translates into more revenue.
Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.