During boarding, when I’m standing in front of the flight deck door greeting passengers, I always smile and say, “Hello.” Sometimes I’ll ask how passengers are, only to be reminded why I maybe shouldn’t ask that question.
“This airline sucks,” said one passenger, after I wished him a “Good morning.”
“We’re not sitting together and it’s your fault,” yelled another passenger, after I complimented her red cat eye frames.
Sometimes it’s so over the top I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. How would you react if someone you’d barely spoken to — other than to ask what he’d like to drink — turned around as he was walking off the plane and flipped it off?
At least, I’m assuming it was the plane he flipped off. It could have been me.
Welcome to my world. Airline world.
A world where people have no problem telling you exactly how they feel. Where they can let it all out.
A lot has changed since I first started working for a major U.S carrier. Twenty years ago, when passengers got upset about something, they’d ask for your name and the company’s address. Back then, the worst thing that would happen was a passenger would actually take the time to write the letter they threatened to write.
Now it’s a stream of irate tweets that starts before the plane even takes off. It’s passengers getting escorted off flights during boarding. It’s emergency diversions because one passenger attacked another passenger over a reclining seat.
When I first started flying, it was unheard of to divert a flight for anything other than a medical emergency. Unruly passenger behavior is on the rise.
Of course, airlines give passengers a lot to complain about with cramped seats and extra fees — but what’s with being mean to each other?
Like when a grown man yells at a woman because her baby is crying.
“Do something!” he yelled from his exit row seat.
“It’s a baby!” the woman screamed back — and then burst into tears.
I reminded the man that babies cry. You know, because they’re babies. Then I told him there’s not much anyone can do about it when you’re on an airplane (and the seat belt sign is on).
On another flight, an older woman threatened to punch a teenage girl in the face
On another flight, an older woman threatened to punch a teenage girl in the face if she put her seat back “one more time.”
I told her that “we” don’t punch people here, on the plane, no matter how annoyed “we” might be, and if “we” do punch people, authorities will be called to meet the flight.
I can understand why you might get mad at the airline and want to take it out on me — but that’s no reason to bite, choke and throw drinks at the person seated in front of you, is it? Don’t answer that.
Why are people more inclined to have these over-the-top knee jerk responses on planes these days? I have two theories.
First, it’s the feeling of anonymity of being on an airplane. You can be the worst version of yourself and there’s nobody around to judge. Well, nobody you care about anyway. F*ck that lady in front of you, right?
Yeah, that's me, the one standing in the aisle wearing flammable polyester...