D.he video begins with a Southwest Airlines flight attendant talking to a woman as a flight lands in San Diego, California. Suddenly the woman gets up and gives the employee several powerful fist blows. Another passenger immediately intervenes and ends the argument, but by this point the flight attendant already has a blood-smeared face. It is later revealed that she has lost two teeth.
The attacker was met by the police at the gate and led out of the plane. Southwest Airlines said it had repeatedly ignored instructions from staff. The video of the May 23 flight spread rapidly on the Internet, as did a recording of an incident three days later on a Ryanair plane traveling from Ibiza to Milan.
It shows a wildly cursing Italian who spits at a passenger, pulls another passenger by the hair and has a heated argument with a flight attendant. The escalation apparently had to do with an argument about face masks, the woman had her own mask tucked under her chin. At the end of the video, the woman is held by several employees who cannot prevent her from kicking another passenger.
A “constant argumentative attitude”
These days, airlines have to deal more and more often with unruly or even violent passengers. This is another challenge for the industry, which has been badly hit by the Corona crisis and is just beginning to recover amid rising vaccination rates.
There is particularly much rioting in the USA, where the same number of flights are being booked within the country as before the pandemic and the planes are often fully occupied today. Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, told CNBC what is happening on airplanes is “completely crazy”, “out of control” and a “new phenomenon”. Passengers displayed a “constant argumentative attitude”. In many cases, the requirement to wear a mask triggers the conflict. Nelson complained that wearing masks had become so politicized in America that many people did not accept it as a necessary safety measure.
Passengers endanger the well-being of flight crew
The American air traffic control authority FAA announced a few days ago that 2,500 cases of unruly passengers had been reported to it since the beginning of the year. Unionwoman Nelson says that’s twenty times more than usual in a whole year. As early as January, the authority introduced a “zero tolerance policy” for passengers who cause unrest. At that time, she connected the increasing aggression in airplanes, in addition to the refusal to wear masks, also with the violent assault on the Capitol in Washington on January 6th.
After this tightened policy, the authority no longer wants to be content with warnings when passengers become unruly, but instead initiate legal steps that can lead to fines or even prison sentences. Since then, she has imposed a whole series of fines in the five-digit range on passengers and made them public.