Air rage is reaching new heights

 
 
Posted5/8/2015 6:00 AM
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  • In this Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014 photo provided by Scott Schieffer, passengers gather belongings as they exit a Southwest Airlines flight that was supposed to land at Branson Airport in Branson, Mo., but instead landed at Taney County Airport, in Hollister, Mo., that only has about half as much runway. A Southwest spokesman said all 124 passengers and five crew members were safe. (AP Photo/ Scott Schieffer) MANDATORY CREDIT

    In this Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014 photo provided by Scott Schieffer, passengers gather belongings as they exit a Southwest Airlines flight that was supposed to land at Branson Airport in Branson, Mo., but instead landed at Taney County Airport, in Hollister, Mo., that only has about half as much runway. A Southwest spokesman said all 124 passengers and five crew members were safe. (AP Photo/ Scott Schieffer) MANDATORY CREDIT

When Tracy Weisman flew from Oregon to Chicago last week, she discovered why flight attendants say, "Check to make sure your items haven't moved before you open the overhead bins."

Tracy, who recently broke a hip during a skiing accident, was traveling with a metal cane. The flight attendant put the cane in the overhead rack for her. During the flight, Tracy opened the bin to retrieve it. It retrieved itself -- right on the head of the person seated below the bin. The woman said she was fine but Tracy felt terrible. She searched out a flight attendant and bought a drink and a cheese plate for the woman.

What could have been an incident causing air rage and an angry exchange of words ended with the two people exchanging phone numbers and sharing family pictures.

Unfortunately, this is far from the norm. Air rage has reached new heights in recent years. Last week, a woman stabbed her seatmate several times with a pen because she couldn't stand him snoring.

And there was the Korean Air executive Heather Cho who went nuts over nuts. She didn't like her macadamia nuts being served in a bag instead of on a plate. So she reamed the flight attendant and insisted the plane return to New York and remove the flight attendant. Cho was arrested and appeared before the judge wearing prison-green fatigues. I'm sure her father wasn't thrilled. He's the chairman of Korean Air.

It's not just the occasional airline executive in first class who goes bananas. Mild-mannered passengers who rarely raise their dander can lose it over something as trivial as who has the right to a middle-seat armrest.

Recently I observed two men battle it out verbally over who had the right to recline a seatback. The incident would have ended in blows if the flight attendant hadn't threatened them both with a visit from the men in blue meeting the aircraft.

So what causes us to become so anti-social? Some experts claim it's the overcrowding.

"Passengers fight long lines at the airport and feel their privacy has been challenged by removing shoes and jackets before boarding the plane. It's degrading," said travel agent Judy Barr.

Ticket agent Tom Benjamin agrees.

"On the aircraft, we crowd passengers into tiny spaces, take away all their amenities and expect them to sit there and take it. So when somebody infringes in their overhead bin space, they lose it and become fighting mad," he said.

The airlines could help the situation by creating a friendlier environment. But most of the carriers are working on seat designs to board more passengers in less space.

So if you really want to "fly the friendly skies," you need to work on some deep-breathing tactics and develop your own mantra. Or do what Tracy did and think about your fellow passengers. Sometimes just being kind can make a world of difference.

• Gail Todd, a freelance writer, worked as a flight attendant for more than 30 years. She can be reached at gailtodd@aol.com.

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