The difference now is that so many episodes of this kind are now caught on video, and quickly go viral.
In a shocking video from a recent JetBlue flight, an apparently disturbed passenger seems to go bezerk--berating cabin crew, breaking out of handcuffs after he's restrained, and punching a flight attendant in the head.
The video was shared by flight attendant site Paddle Your Own Kanoo, which labeled it "Shocking Moment a jetBlue Flight Attendant is Punched in the Head by a Disruptive Passenger." As Paddle Your Own Kanoo explains:
The suspect screams "Let go of my f**king arm" and "Get off of me" as profanities ring out throughout the cabin. Much of the alleged assailents ire is directed towards the flight attendant who appears to be trying to calm him down.
It's not entirely clear what led to the passenger acting in this way in the first place but he can be heard to clearly shout: "Why are we still in the f**king airport... Damn, I hate planes. I get high as s**t."
There are two saving graces in this incident.
First, the whole thing happened on the ground at LAX, before the scheduled redeye flight to JFK even took off. Mere minutes into the incident, the captain can be heard over the intercom announcing that they're returning to the terminal.
Second, the flight attendants handled it perfectly. One passenger told DailyMail that the flight crew was "was amazing about this. If I was one of them I don't if I'd be able to hold my composure the way they did."
The flight eventually made it to New York, six hours late. Two flight attendants who were apparently assaulted or at least involved were replaced for the flight. The video continues to show police officers boarding the flight and taking the man into custody. As DailyMail reports:
According to the eyewitness, the National Guard had to handcuff the disturbed man 'not once, not twice, but three times because he broke out of the first two sets of cuffs.'
The witnessed added: 'This happened on my red-eye Jetblue flight Tuesday night from LAX to JFK. It occurred after all passengers and crew were instructed to fasten their seatbelts.'
'We were already sitting on the runway and the entire plane was pretty much silent as we awaited take off until this guy decided to go nuts.'
When I wrote recently about the woman caught on video threatening a Delta Airlines flight attendant's job, many readers said the woman deserved whatever she got.
I disagreed there. But in this case, I can't imagine much leniency is going to be warranted.
The incident happened Feb. 21. At this point we don't have the passenger's name or information about charges he may be facing. I talked with a spokesperson for the police at Los Angeles airport, who referred me to JetBlue. If and when I get more, I'll update this article.
However, the airline did issue a statement to Paddle Your Own Kanoo:
"On Wednesday, February 21, JetBlue flight 1224 from Los Angeles to New York-JFK returned to the gate following reports of a disruptive customer on board. Authorities met the aircraft and customers later continued on to New York without further incident. ... The safety of our customers and crewmembers is our top priority."
Compare this incident to one in which a passenger on a Spirit Airlines flight who verbally assaulted a flight attendant--including racial slurs--was sentenced to two months in federal prison on top of completing a private substance abuse treatment program.
Maybe more apt is this case from last year of a man on a Seattle to Beijing Delta flight who allegedly tried to open an emergency door at 30,000 feet, and got into a melee with flight attendants and passengers. One flight attendant had to break a wine bottle over his head before he could be restrained using zip cuffs.
His case is still pending, but news reports say he faces a possible 20 years to life in prison sentence if convicted.
At one point in the JetBlue video, another passenger can be heard commenting, "You're going to jail homeboy."
And that's exactly what should happen. Here's the JetBlue passenger video: