Flying commercial airlines is more dangerous, these days, than it used to be, but that is not because the planes are less safe, the pilots less competent or because climate change is causing airliners to fall out of the sky. No, it’s because one is more likely, today, to come across an unruly or even violent fellow passenger. Why is this? The reasons are many and varied and the blame can be placed squarely upon the shoulders of – absolutely everyone.
According to one national newspaper, the Federal Aviation Administration claims that it has received around 2,900 reports of “unruly passenger behavior” since the first day of 2021. Among those Americans who fly more than, say, one time a year – round trip – it is no secret that traveling via commercial passenger plane is, for the most part, a stressful, frustrating, and uncomfortable experience unless one can afford to fly first class. Nobody in their right mind would choose not to fly first class if they have the means to do so, but, of course, not everybody can – and flying coach is an ordeal that would test even a Zen master.
Is taking a three-hour commercial flight better than 16 hours on a Greyhound bus? Unless one is a Greyhound bus enthusiast, then, yes, it is. Is it better than making the same trip by Amtrak – which would probably involve a 23-hour journey on three different trains? Again, yes. Such comparisons are not necessarily relevant to the problem at hand, though they do demonstrate that even the least comfortable method of private transportation is superior to any method of public transportation.
It’s a Hassle – Plane and Simple
So what, exactly, has gotten into airline passengers, lately? To begin searching for an answer to that question, one need only consider the hell on Earth that is the average airport.
Assuming one has not checked in online and already printed out a boarding pass, there’s the initial lining up to check in. Then, there’s the lining up to get through security. During this phase of the journey, one must endure the humiliating and utterly futile removing of belts and footwear and being ordered around by often ill-tempered TSA agents, most of whom – through no fault of their own – have a level of training that is far below what should be required for people upon whom the safety and security of planes and their passengers are dependent. Then, of course, there is the wait in the departure lounge, which always lasts seven hours – or, at least, that’s how it seems, even if one’s flight is departing 40 minutes hence.
The final phase of airport hell is preparing for takeoff; stowing one’s bag, getting seated, being told what you can and cannot do, having to watch a flight attendant give instructions on the immensely complicated task of stretching the head strap of an oxygen mask over the head and putting on a life jacket.
The entire experience is, quite frankly, degrading. Airline passengers are treated as if they are potential criminals with the IQs of goldfish, who should never have been allowed to leave their dwellings without supervision.
To numb all of this horror, of course, sensible people go to the airport bar and get themselves well oiled before they have to set foot inside that overcrowded metal tube. Nowadays though, airline workers behave like Puritans when it comes to alcohol consumption; they frown upon it greatly. Only for their passengers, of course; not for themselves, because many of them, when the plane reaches its final destination, will be heading to the nearest bar.
The previously mentioned national newspaper implies that the main reason for all this attitude at altitude is the dangerous anti-mask ideology of red-state riff-raff. Apparently, of those 2,900 reports of naughty passengers, about 2,200 of them involved a refusal to comply with the federal mask mandate.
The First Rule of Flight Club
Maybe the real problem is that the airlines chose to enforce the wearing of masks in the first place. After all, to this day, no credible scientific proof that mask mandates mitigate the spread of COVID-19 has been produced. Perhaps airlines should have pointed out to the federal government that, as private businesses, they have no obligation to force their paying customers to submit to such nonsense.
Perhaps TSA agents and flight crews could stop treating air passengers like children or zombies, who must be herded around and barked at. And, of course, air travelers themselves would do well to remember that they chose to take the flight and act like mature adults; embrace the suck and spare a little consideration for those TSA agents, those flight attendants, and their fellow passengers who, just like themselves, have chosen to endure the experience that is modern commercial air travel.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.