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posted: 3/1/2014 5:30 AM

Grounded: Bad weather leads to bad behavior by air passengers

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  • Flight cancellations can put anyone in a bad mood. This winter, airports around the world have had trouble weathering the crowds.

    Flight cancellations can put anyone in a bad mood. This winter, airports around the world have had trouble weathering the crowds.
    Associated Press


If you were at O'Hare International Airport earlier this month when the snow was blowing sideways, you were more apt to fly into a rage than the wild blue yonder.

Just ask Kelly Kline, who was in transit for a flight to San Francisco.

"One passenger set the tone," said Kelly, who had settled down with a good book in anticipation of a long delay. "This guy was irate because no one had called him to say the flight was delayed. I thought he was going to hit someone. Then other passengers started yelling as well. Like the agent had any control."

O'Hare wasn't the only place this winter where bad weather caused passengers to fly off the handle when they couldn't fly on an airplane.

Airports around the world have had trouble weathering the crowds.

On Valentine's Day, Ryanair, Ireland's cut-rate airline, faced angry passengers when they were stuck on the tarmac for several hours at Stansted Airport in England. According to reports, lack of food, drink and service caused several passengers to call the police for help getting off the aircraft. The police responded faster than the airline and passengers were deplaned and allowed to wait in the terminal.

And in January, on a Ryanair flight from Madrid to Paris, passengers became so angry over lack of service and a long delay, they looted the beverage cart, helped themselves to any snacks they could find and stole duty-free products.

Which isn't a big surprise, because passengers have been complaining about the service -- or lack of -- for several years. Ryanair has a reputation for bargain basement fares as well as service. Years ago, in order to cut costs, the airline removed window shades and attached emergency cards to the back of seats so they wouldn't have to replace them. There was talk of removing lavatories on short flights to save on water and add more seats. Fees for luggage and services fly high. And passengers have become disgruntled with the airline's attitude. Its reputation has suffered as well as its bottom line. But I digress.

And then there's China. In early February, a full-fledged riot broke out at Xinzheng International Airport in Zhenghou, Henan province, when heavy snow stranded a few thousand passengers. Instead of accepting their fate, angry travelers smashed computers, broke chairs and decked airline employees.

This winter, flight delays and closed airports have become a way of life for many travelers. Becoming hot under the collar doesn't melt the snow and clear the runways. Your blood pressure may reach new heights, but the planes will still be on the ground. And flying off the handle doesn't get you any closer to your destination. Pack your carry-on with two days of necessities, call before you go to the airport and if you're grounded, dig-in and weather the storm.

• Gail Todd, a freelance writer, worked as a flight attendant for more than 30 years. She can be reached via email at

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