An old boss of mine loved being in foreign countries-- and, being incredibly wealthy, he owned homes around the globe. He was also a collector... of just about everything, from fine art to inexplicable junk. But one of the categories of collectibles was airline dishes. Did you even know there was such a thing? Each airline has its own specially designed sets of dishes. And my friend who spent more time flying than anyone I've ever know-- and rich rich as Midas-- decided he had to have entire collections from each airline for his various homes. And he wanted to steal each and every one. We all have our little quirks.
I don't remember what band he had talked me into going with him to see but I found myself on a plane with him flying down to New Orleans when I should have been in the office working. We were sitting in a tiny first class section on a United flight from New York and he quickly turned his area into something that looked like a garbage dump. Many of us have more than one quirk. When dinner arrived, he was complacent until dessert when we were served some kind of pudding. He didn't care about the pudding but he went bonkers because he had never seen the pudding cups before and he had to have six to complete his United collection for one of his homes-- in Paris, i think, but it may have been in one of his London homes. I don't remember. What I do remember is that he kept bothering the attendant for more pudding. Worse, he insisted I also ask for more pudding.
I recall liking the pudding, so i gladly ate a second cupful, while he squirreled away his two and my two-- leaving him two short. He didn't like the pudding so he didn't want to eat it so he spooned it into the magazine holder on the back of the seat in front of him. At that point I wanted to change my seat, but the cabin was full. He demanded 2 more puddings-- the attendant now alert that something was awry-- and dumped the contents into the magazine holder. He now had his six cups. When we deplaned, he was held up by a United official. I left him. He wasn't arrested but I think they confiscated the 6 cups. A few days later, back in New York, he got a letter from United that he was banned from flying-- I think for 2 years, but maybe it was for life. And he was a very frequent flier. I vaguely recall all sorts of appeals for months but I did my best to pretend the whole incident had never happened.
He wasn't violent-- just a dishes thief and a pig. The airlines are dealing with something much worse now-- unruly passengers, some violent. 85% of airline attendants say they have had to deal with at least one unruly passenger during the pandemic and one in five has had to deal with physical violence. Although many of the incidents involved passengers refusing to wear masks, many involved drunk passengers and, in Phoenix, "in a couple of occasions, staff have even responded to reports of passengers urinating in public." Sky Harbor listed 9 categories of incidents they've had to deal with:
People refusing to wear masks.
Interfering with flight crews and airline gate personnel.
Pushing, shoving and other assaults among travelers or upon workers.
Erratic or suspicious behavior.
Disturbing the peace.
Urinating in public.
Attempting to enter restricted areas.
The FAA has reported nearly 4,500 unruly passenger incidents-- 3,200 of which were related to mask-wearing. So far this year over a million dollars in fines have been leveled against unruly passengers. As of this month, United had banned over 700 unruly passengers and Delta has banned over 1,600. Delta, which is the only airline that hasn't mandated vaccines for all employees, proposed a nation-wide no-fly list for all the airlines to share. (NOTE: Delta is on my own personal no fly list until they do mandate vaccines-- for passengers and employees.)
As of yesterday, United had banned over 700 unruly passengers and Delta has banned over 1,600. Delta, which is the only airline that hasn't mandated vaccines for all employees, proposed a nation-wide no-fly list for them. (NOTE: Delta is on my own personal no fly list until they do mandate vaccines-- for passengers and employees.)
Congress is considering legislation, though, presumably, the GOP fringe members like Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) in the Senate and Marjorie Traitor Greene (Q-GA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Madison Cawthorn (Nazi-NC) and Lauren Boebert (Q-CO) in the House, believe the unruly passengers should have the freedom and liberty to act out-- and urinate on other passengers. A plurality of the unruly passengers seem to be from Florida. Maria Cantwell (D-Boeing) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) have formally asked Merrick Garland and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson criminally prosecute passengers who endanger the safety of other passengers and crew. They said fines aren't enough.
This morning, The Hill reported that TSA is "stepping up efforts to curtail the spike in disturbances on airplanes and in airports as more Americans return to travel and as the U.S. prepares to welcome international travelers again."
"We’re seeing that in screen check points, we see it in flights, and you’ve seen passenger recordings of instances that have happened in flights. Those are a great concern both to the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] and to TSA and we have worked very closely together, used each of our authorities and each of the tools that we have to try to bring those disturbances ideally down to zero,” [TSA head David] Pekoske said.
“As a passenger, I don’t want anybody acting out on a flight that I’m on, and I can understand why every other passenger feels the same way,” he added.
The FAA says there have been nearly 4,500 unruly passenger reports and 3,274 mask-related incidents reported in the past year. The TSA gets involved when an unruly passenger threatens the security of an aircraft, such as charging the cockpit door.
A JetBlue passenger recently attempted to storm the cockpit and attacked a flight attendant in the process. Separately, an American Airlines passenger last month climbed out of the emergency hatch and onto the plane’s wing when it was on the tarmac at Miami International Airport.
The rise in such incidents has come mostly during the COVID-19 pandemic as airports and airlines enforce mask mandates and many Americans resume air travel for the first time since the coronavirus took hold in March 2020.
The federal mask mandate for all transportation services has been in place since February and has since been extended through January. President Biden announced last month that the TSA will double the fines on passengers who refuse to wear masks.
“I would say there’s tough environments almost everywhere in the country it seems. We also read about them in grocery store lines for example and things like that,” Pekoske said when asked his response to people who feel unsafe flying right now with the tense environments seen on planes and in airports.
He said gate agents are pivotal to identifying issues before the plane leaves the airport.
“Now we’re doing a very good job of identifying people who might cause a problem on an aircraft and not letting them board, so they’re similarly feeling the results of their actions, but they’re doing the exact right thing. A problem on the ground is far preferable than a problem in the air,” Pekoske said.
My friends who have been flying all tell me the same story. Large numbers of passengers wear masks on planes-- but under their noses or under their chins, meaning they are 100% useless. And when people eat on planes... that's when COVID spreads.