On a commercial airline, hell is other passengers.
Once upon a time, we are told, flying was a civilizing experience. But now, you're just stuck on a plane, packed with other passengers behaving badly.
We've seen two particularly egregious examples this week, one each on American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. So, let's review them, compare them, and lay out a few rules that we can all get around to at least discourage this kind of thing.
The American Airlines 'pull-up passenger'
Let's set the stage. Monday evening, and we're on an American Airlines flight from Phoenix to Boston. An allegedly intoxicated passenger won't sit down. He grabs onto the overhead baggage compartment.
Somebody says, Hey man, what are you gonna do--pull-ups?
This sounds like a good idea to the man. He still won't sit down--but now he also insists on doing pull-ups.
At this point in the story, I found myself wondering: Was this at all comical? Was the guy an annoying but also kind of amusing drunk? Sadly, no.
"The flight attendant probably asked him about three or four times to sit down and he refused to sit down," another passenger said afterward. "And then he really got verbally abusive with her, starting calling her names."
The flight was diverted to Kansas City, and the passenger was taken off the plane. News reports however said he wasn't arrested, and no charges were filed.
The Southwest Airlines 'racial slur passenger'
Okay, another flight, this one's on Southwest Airlines last weekend.
The plane is scheduled to go from Chicago to Houston, but it hasn't taken off yet. It's delayed--ultimately for an hour or so--after a woman allegedly becomes verbally abusive toward flight attendants.
The issue? Reportedly they told her she'd have to fold up her tray table for take off.
Maybe there's another side to the story. But we'll never know because the woman allegedly went straight for the nuclear option, calling a flight attendant a racial slur (which other reports seem to assume was the "N-word.")
That pretty much ends debate, and she's escorted off the plane, and met by law enforcement. Again, no charges reported, but another passenger recorded the aftermath of the episode on video.
The woman really ought to say a prayer of thanks to whatever god she believes in that news organizations showing the video decided to blur her face.
So, just another week in the skies, right? Well, if you're reading this article, and if you've made it this far, you're likely probably not part of the problem. (Thanks for being a good passenger; I'd love to sit next to you on a flight.)
But for what it's worth, maybe we can spread five smart pieces of advice that passengers need to think about before the act in a way that will turn them into a viral example of bad behavior.
1. Watch the alcohol.
Granted, this advice could apply in almost any part of life. But drinking plays a big role in so many of these bad behavior incidents. (Remember the passenger who is now a felon, after he threatened a Southwest flight attendant's life for not giving him a fourth drink on a two-hour flight. (If you have to drink on a flight, be more like these people.)
2. Don't delay everyone else.
This is so key. If your behavior delays a flight (or worse, gets it diverted), you go from creating an incident that other passengers quickly forget, to a story they'll likely be telling for years.
3. Assume there's video.
Nearly every passenger now carries a smartphone. Just take a quick second before acting and think: Do I want a 19-year-old Instagram influencer with millions of followers to share video of me doing this?
4. Be broad and boring.
There were many other bad passenger behavior issues this week that we never heard about. Why? Because they're more generic bad behavior--almost boring by way of comparison to these crazy stories. Not so when you do something crazy like break into an exercise routine on a plane, and especially if you're a white passenger who uses the N-word. Very bad idea.
5. Assume you'll be doxxed.
People think they're anonymous. Amateur Internet detectives think differently. Think back to the Delta Air Lines passenger earlier this year who, apparently in a moment of anger, threatened a flight attendant's job--and wound up suspended from her own job afterward.
Bottom line, at 40,000 feet, we're literally all in this together. Let's start acting like it.