Are you watching videos of people out of control on airplanes? There is something addictive and I admit I love watching them. 

Not wearing a mask? Using profanity at staff? Refusing to sit down? Being an obnoxious copycat with a political agenda?  Since February 2021, airlines reported 1300 incidents to the FAA. This is a huge increase but still rare.  Just be aware of the trend; maybe be more sympathetic to airline staff? 

Since April mask wearing in airports and on airplanes has been federal law. Flight attendants point to mask wearing as the number one catalyst for unpleasant incidents. Alcohol contributes and let’s face it, the past year stressed everyone. These incidents happen despite the fact that there is a fine up to $35000 per incident along with a Zero Policy which means NO exceptions.   

So how does one deal with others’ aggressive or unsafe behavior on a plane, bus, airport, train etc.

I’ve witnessed unruly people over 40+ years of traveling. A few weeks ago, female passenger got on the Madison Avenue bus, without a mask. The driver told her to mask up. She refused, croaking some gobbled gook about privacy.  On being asked to leave, she went out of control, blasted curses at the driver then at us riders.  On the sidewalk, she was still cursing as the bus drove away.  

Second experience with a passenger out of control, I shared a shuttle with 3 passengers. One passenger had her nose exposed above her mask. I asked her to cover it before getting in the car.  She insulted me aggressively, then stormed away angrily. The third incident was 5 years ago. We were on an American Airlines flight.  A passenger arrived late, demanded help loading her overhead suitcase. She then shifted everyone’s luggage haphazardly to accommodate hers.  We and staff watched saying nothing.  She took her bulkhead seat, opened a computer, then refused to store it for take off. Staff filled out a form. They discreetly asked several of us to witness her misbehavior in writing.  (We were told she would not get our names or contact information). The passenger was put on the American Airlines no fly list for an unspecified period of time. 

What do you do if a fellow passenger is acting inappropriately or worse illegally.  Speak calmly and carefully if you can. Ask staff for assistance if an initial approach does not work. If on a plane, walk away from your seat, speak to the Purser who is the official in charge, next to the Captain. Have him/her deal with the situation. It is always more effective to get the name of the staff member you speak with, and to address them by name. It is important you do not get personally involved.  Be discreet so you do not become a victim. While staff deals with the passenger, read your book, watch your Entertainment screen, be fake asleep. In most cases, alcohol is involved; let the pro’s take over. 

Do you have a right to ask for a different seat? No but in most cases, staff will move you for your safety and comfort (that is if there are seats available). Staff should move the difficult person, alas, it doesn’t work that way. And does staff have the right to force you to move: yes they do. Argue with staff? They are trained to follow procedure. They have total power so eat your pride and obey. Still unhappy, get those around you to agree quietly and cite their seat numbers in your complaint letter. 

I will finish this blog post with a secret, those videos of people out of control, make for cathartic relief sort of like gossip.  But unlike gossip, watching videos doesn’t hurt anyone. It also doesn’t worry most of us as incidences are so rare. Should you ever see staff in action during an incident, you will be very impressed. They really do know what to do and they do it promptly. (Photos in this article come from the FAA)

Travel Tips from The Women’s Travel Group.

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