8/26/2012 9:38:00 AM
There seems to be an increasing number of incidents involving unruly passenger behavior involving air travel lately. The recent example of a London to Calgary flight having to be diverted to Edmonton because of a disruptive passenger is just one of many incidents. Another case last week involved a man on a Denver to Los Angeles flight.
Unruly behavior continues to be one of the biggest issues facing airlines. And these cases illustrate the increasing need to do something about unruly passengers. Not only are incidents like this unpleasant for the crew and fellow passengers but they are also potentially dangerous. The threat of injury is obvious; the underlying threat is in the amount of attention needed to watch one passenger, with the risk of turning valuable attention away from other aspects of passenger safety.
Personally I’ve never had to experience an incident of an uncontrollable passenger during a flight and I’m not sure what I’d do if I was sitting next to a loud, obnoxious drunk. But I know I would NOT be happy.
Let’s face it much of the enjoyment and the so-called romance of flying has all but disappeared. (Even though I still enjoy it.) The process a passenger has to go before boarding an aircraft has become increasingly stressful. Imagine a passenger is late getting to the airport because of heavy traffic congestion and an inadequate road system. Then it takes some time parking the car before heading for the check-in area. The queues at check-in are ridiculously long, made worse by the fact that not all check-in desks are manned. Yes I know checking in online speeds this process up but then there’s the queues through security that are equally long and the stress levels are building up.
Maybe, then, it only takes one other small incident, such as a departure delay or a problem with carry-on space and the passenger is ready to lose their mind and lashes out.
None of this excuses bad behavior but if the industry really wants to curb such unruly behavior inside the cabin the industry must look at soothing this problem, not aggravating it.
One of the biggest issues of course is the over consumption of alcohol, it’s no coincidence that almost every incident of unruly behavior involves alcohol. While those under the influence of alcohol are supposedly not allowed on board flights in the first place, it’s difficult for a cabin crew member to assess the level of the passenger's inebriation.
Compounding the problem is that once a passenger shows signs of excessive drinking or signs of unruly behavior due to drinking too much and the cabin crew refuses to serve any more alcohol. This alone though can spark the very trouble that you want to avoid. Telling a drunk person that they are drunk and that they will not be served any more alcohol is asking for trouble. Unlike in a bar they be simply asked to leave.
Is the simple answer to stop serving alcohol onboard an aircraft? While I enjoy a beverage or 2 onboard and think it makes the experience of flying more enjoyable I can see the day when it happens, either voluntarily or by forced regulation. History has shown the airline learns quickly from its mistakes. Mostly they are costly mistakes with tragic consequences. All it takes is one in-flight incident caused by an unruly passenger that ends involving the entire plane and there will be forced changes.
Let’s just hope it never comes to that.