Airlines Grapple With Air Rage
How To Address Air Rage
By Annette Santiago/AviationNow.com
From regulators to flight attendants and passengers,
everyone is responsible for passenger safety. But when it comes to air
rage, no one is quite sure how to keep everyone safe.
Following the much publicized Global Zero Air Rage Day
in July, there has been much discussion about the how and why of in-flight
violence, but little agreement.
The FAA's new leaflet on bad behavior - "Safety Is
Everyone's Responsibility" - came out almost a month after the U.S.
flight attendants' union accused government agencies of failing to protect
them, and airline passengers, from "the dangers of air rage."
But even flight attendants, on the front lines of air
rage, think Feinstein is missing the mark. Limiting the amount of alcohol
that can be served on flights could be potentially more damaging, and a few
flight attendants cite its ability to calm the nerves of some airline
"Carriers need to adopt responsible alcohol
policies," says Candice Colander, a spokesperson for the Association
of Flight Attendants (AFA) Air Safety and Health Dept. "The airlines
should train flight attendants to recognize drunken behavior and how to
effectively cut off passengers who have had too much."
United was the first airline to distribute the FAA
leaflets at hubs across the country.
The AFA points to figures from United for air rage
incidents - higher than those kept by FAA - as evidence that air rage
incidents, while still freak occurrences, are growing.
"We think the issue [air rage] is prevalent,"
says United's Meagher. "It's an industry issue and affects our flights
A sampling of ASRS reports from cabin crewmembers between October 1999 to February 2000 showed that 16 of
50 reports involved incidents of unruly passenger behavior. Three of the
sixteen were alcohol-related, two of the sixteen were alcohol/tobacco-related,
and one was solely tobacco-related. There was also a drug-related incident
involving PCP and two bomb threats.
If alcohol is not a factor in all cases of air rage,
then what is it that causes law-abiding citizens to act in a way that not
only endangers themselves but others?
"We are living in the age of rage, where
more of the 'me' generation times the millions of travelers equals
explosive situations," says Leon James, Ph.D., a professor of traffic
psychology at University of Hawaii and co-author of Road Rage and
Aggressive Driving: Steering Clear of Highway Warfare.
"Air rage is so common that most
travelers are unaware that they have it. It's just part of the background
feeling that goes along with the stress of travel and transportation,"
The AFA, in its air rage report card, pinpointed many of
these stresses: oversold flights, crowded planes, small seats, frequent
delays, and flight cancellations.
James believes the airlines should, among
other things, provide a continuously updated stream of accurate information
and elevate the importance of the travelers' comfort.
"Apologize if you can't provide decent
seating," he recommends.
James and his colleague Diane Nahl are members
of a small community of scholars studying traffic psychology. In 1997 he
testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee
about aggressive driving and road rage. He believes that the government can
approach air rage the same way it has approached road rage, by giving
grants to airlines and airports for proper crowd control management
"Air rage, like road rage, is the
inability to cope with the challenges of congested traffic," he says.
The FAA does not have any immediate plans for action in
the fight against air rage, but hopes that the leaflet is a first step in
educating the public about the penalties for crew interference.
Passenger recalls seat dispute
By Scott Mayerowitz, AP
POSTED: 10:01 a.m. HST, Sep 03, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 04:27 a.m. HST, Sep 04, 2014
NEW YORK >> The businessman whose dispute with a
fellow airline passenger over a reclined seat sparked a national debate
about air-travel etiquette says he's embarrassed by the way the
confrontation unfolded and that he regrets his behavior.
(…) The argument became so tense that the pilots of the
Aug. 24 fight diverted the Boeing 737 to Chicago. An AP story about the
incident started a broad public discussion of whether passengers should be
allowed to recline. In the days that followed, two other flights were
diverted under similar circumstances.
For the record, he said, he never reclines his seat.
"You have the right, but it seems rude to do
it," said Beach, who is 6 feet 1 inch tall.
The dispute occurred on the final leg of Beach's trip
back to his home near Denver. (…)
U.S. airlines prohibit use of the Knee Defender, but the
devices are not illegal.
"I put them in maybe a third of the time. Usually,
the person in front tries (to recline) their seat a couple of times, and
then they forget about it," Beach said. The device comes with a
courtesy card to tell passengers that you've blocked them, but he doesn't
"I'd rather just kind of let them think the seat is
broken, rather than start a confrontation," he said.
(…) When the flight attendants came through the cabin to
serve beverages, the woman said her seat was broken. That's when Beach told
one of them about the Knee Defender. The flight attendant asked him to
remove the device, and Beach said he did.
"As soon as I started to move it, she just full
force, blasted the seat back, right on the laptop,
almost shattered the screen. My laptop came flying onto my lap," he
Beach complained, saying that he couldn't work like
that, but the flight attendant informed him that the woman had the right to
recline. Both passengers were sitting in United's Economy Plus section,
which offers 4 more inches of legroom than the rest of coach.
His reply: "You asked me to let her recline a few
inches, and she just took 100 percent of it."
That's when Beach's anger boiled over. He said he pushed
the woman's seat forward and put the Knee Defender back in. The woman stood
up and threw a cup of soda -- not water, as previously reported -- at him.
(…) The flight attendant stepped in quickly and moved
the woman to another seat.
"I said a lot of things I shouldn't have said to
the flight attendant: some bad words, what's your name and 'I can't believe
you're treating me like this,'" he recalled.
The pilots then changed course for Chicago -- a decision
that Beach said "amazed" him.
"The plane was dead quiet for the rest of that
flight," he added. "Nobody said a word."
Ira Goldman, who invented the Knee Defender, said the
passengers on the other diverted flights got upset after their knees and head were hit by reclining seats. He said airlines are
"trying to wish this problem away."
His solution: Install seats that slide forward within a
shell to recline or to allow the use of his device, which has been sold
"They're selling the same space twice -- to me to
sit down and then inviting people to put their seat backs there as
well," he said.
When the plane landed in Chicago, police escorted Beach
and the woman off. Neither police, nor the airline or the Transportation
Security Administration has released any information about the passenger
seated in front of Beach.
No criminal or civil charges were brought against them,
but United would not let them continue on to Denver.