If social media accounts, YouTube videos, and recent media coverage are any indication, extreme passenger misbehavior is rampant on airplanes.
Whether this behavior is getting worse or if we’re simply seeing more of it documented is unclear, but one question remains: What can airline crew do about misbehaving passengers?
During flight attendant training, the importance of safety is drilled home for practically six weeks straight. Flight attendants Business Insider spoke with said if defusing the situation is not an option, crewmembers may refuse to board the passenger, restrain the passenger, and divert the flight. Some flight attendants can even use tasers on passengers in an emergency.
“We all just want to get on the plane and get where we’re going,” Annette Long, a flight attendant with 16 years of experience, told Business Insider. “We don’t need to have any problems.”
But she also said that it’s the law that passengers comply with the crew members’ instructions.
“My job isn’t to enforce stuff — it’s to let you know that there are certain things that you can’t cross the line on — so don’t make me pull this plane over,” she said.
And once that line is crossed and a flight attendant reports it, often the decision on what to do is in the pilot’s hands.
“Most of the pilots say to us, ‘If you’ve got a problem with them, I’ve got a problem with them,’ and they will back us up 100%,” Long said.
So what would a passenger have to do for flight attendants to take extreme measures like kicking a passenger off a flight?
Showing signs of being intoxicated
“If you were to come on the plane drunk — if the agent missed it and we noticed it before we left — you’d be escorted off the plane,” Long said. “Because we don’t need you to get up to 35,000 feet and get crazy on us. Most of the time people don’t do that. But, as a flight attendant, you have to do things with an abundance of caution.”
Showing signs of being sick
“In today’s day, there’s zero tolerance for an obviously sick person — for example, someone who is vomiting — boarding a plane,” a flight attendant with 30 years of experience told Business Insider.
Being aggressive with the crew
“Disrespect to a crew member, whether verbal or physical,” is a huge no-no, a flight attendant with 30 years of experience told Business Insider.
“If you cuss at a flight attendant, it’s immediately considered a threat, and if we’re still in the boarding process, there’s a good chance you’ll be taking the next flight,” a flight attendant with three years of experience told Business Insider.
“If you were belligerent with us before we took off, you wouldn’t go,” Long said.
Getting physical with someone
“If you got physical, depending on what the act was, how it happened, and who it happened to, that might divert the plane,” Long said.
“But I don’t make those decisions,” she noted. “I convey the information to the cockpit and the chief flight attendant, and they make the decision about whether or not we’re going to land and get someone off the plane.”
Trying to open the plane door mid-flight
“If you try to open a door mid-flight, which is impossible to do, but most people don’t know that —that’s happened a couple of times,” Long said.