How bad can passengers be? This bad

By | January 21st, 2016

Have you ever wanted a do-over? You know, the opportunity to re-live a situation?

Last week, the managing director of an IT firm was on a British Airways flight from London to Houston. Sounds pretty normal, right? Well, normalcy ended for him in a shocking way.

Let’s check off the list of witness accusations against the passenger. Please let me know if any of these seem like normal flight behavior to you:

✓ Became heavily intoxicated during the flight.
✓ Acted aggressively toward flight attendants.
✓ Yelled at a 14-year-old passenger traveling with her family.
✓ Fell down on other passengers.
✓ Hit his wife with the back of his fist after the crew woke her to help deal with him.
✓ Urinated on the plane’s seats and floor.

Darren Halliwell, a British citizen, was arrested in Boston when the flight diverted there to deal with the wreckage of his alleged actions.

He was arraigned last week and charged with assault and battery of a household member, interfering with aircraft operations and disorderly conduct. Bail was set at $5,000, and the conditions included surrendering his passport, staying away from Boston’s Logan Airport, remaining drug and alcohol free and reporting weekly to probation officers. His next court appearance is set for July 29.

I don’t think there’s going to be much discussion about the right or wrong of his alleged actions. This behavior is not only unacceptable and wrong on a flight, it’s unacceptable and wrong in civilized society.

There are plenty of instances of travelers behaving poorly on flights. Passengers have been known to argue over a reclined seat, fight, get drunk and annoy fellow flyers, watch adult videos and more. One flight attendant blog shares stories of bad behavior and even has a section dedicated to passenger shaming.

Related story:   Is It ever OK to lose your cool with a company?

Then there is the arguable coup de grâce of bad passenger behavior: Gerard Finneran. His actions in first class on a 1995 United Airlines flight will likely (and hopefully) never be duplicated. I can’t, in good conscience recap his behavior. Nor can I tell the story as well as others. But if you’re bold and want to know what happened, click here.

So why do passengers sometimes get out of control? One issue passengers deal with is that flight comfort has severely diminished since the Golden Age of Flight. In the 1950s and ’60s, it wasn’t all glamour, what with high airfares, smoking, more crashes, hijackings and turbulence. But there was white-glove style, lots of room, people dressed up to fly, no security hassles and good food.

Today, flying is all about getting from A to Z. Comfort is out the window. Airlines are creating more revenue by charging for seat assignments, checked baggage, food and flight changes. Whether the Hollywoodesque traveling of the ’50s and ’60s ever really existed is debatable; that it does not exist today isn’t.

Another issue is passenger etiquette. Every day passengers board before it’s their turn, hog the armrests, stick their bare feet all over the place or try to carry on four “personal items.”

In other words, passengers behave badly.

So how can we play nice with one another and make the best of a flight? Some quick suggestions:

Be cordial to the crew.
Flight attendants and pilots are there to get you safely to where you are going. They work hard and deal with rude people all the time. How about being a breath of fresh air to them by letting them know they are appreciated.

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Be courteous.
It seems as if this and #1 above would be natural. But they’re not. So here’s your reminder: be respectful, attentive and civil to your fellow passengers. Treat them like your momma taught you.

Prepare to stow your luggage.
Don’t be the one who holds up a line of boarding passengers by setting your luggage down, opening it up, flipping through the contents, and searching for your book or iPad. Plan ahead.

Don’t drink and fly.
Has anyone ever seen anything good come from a drunk passenger? Alcohol is too often involved in bad passenger behavior. So be wise when ordering your onboard adult beverages.

Identifying issues that arise during travel is not difficult: mechanical problems, bad weather, turbulence, not enough leg room, unruly passengers, and so many more. But take a deep breath. Forget your expectations. Sit back. Make up your mind to enjoy the ride.

Follow these suggestions and there’s a good chance you won’t need a do-over.

This story originally appeared July 17, 2015.

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