Grounded For Insensitivity

The flight experience for a seasoned or first time traveler can be nerve racking depending on the circumstances.  What causes most of the fear and trepidation is the dislike of air turbulence and unexpected engine troubles, but there is another anomaly that may impact a passenger’s experience negatively, and that’s the insensitive handling of passengers by flight personnel.

Since 9/11 the travel experience has taken on a new dimension in terms of acceptable or questionable behaviors on board an aircraft.  The slightest disturbance puts everyone on edge and the flight which could have been a relaxing one becomes charged and full of tension.  For the most part, flight crews are trained to deal with disruptive situations sensitively, quickly and effectively.  However, that is not always the case.  Recently a family experienced improper handling while boarding an aircraft.  Read of their ordeal here.  After the incident, the entire crew was grounded.

I have traveled extensively, and this report brought back to my memory two incidences pre 9/11 that I had forgotten.  The first one was on a trip from New York to Florida.  I was traveling with a group of friends to the port where we would board the cruise ship.  On that flight, a young man became agitated.  He started rambling, crying inconsolably and would get out of his seat even when the “fasten seat belt” sign was on.  The stewardesses tried their best from time to time to calm him down.  They were sympathetic to his plight, but firm in their handling of the situation.  He was en route to see his mother but had been informed that she had died.  The distraught man was treated by the stewardesses with compassion and not as if he was a threat to other passengers.  In today’s climate, he would probably be met at the gate by law enforcement officers and escorted from the plane for his irrational behavior on board the aircraft.

The other incident I recall took place at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport.  I was in transit.   Almost immediately after boarding, some men marched down one of the aisles to the back of the plane.  Loud shouting, tumbling and rumbling ensued.  Attempts to stand and look around where quickly squashed by a few of the men standing in the aisle.  We were told to remain seated, and to keep facing forward.  Sounds of scuffling, shouting and pain inflicted cries were heard throughout the cabin, as the flight crew looked on.  The only word I could understand was “Allah.”   Obviously, the male passenger who was being roughly handled had run afoul of the law.  The interrogation lasted for a little while causing the plane to sit at the gate.  Finally, the lead stewardess approached the undercover agents and insisted that either the passenger be taken off the plane or that the aircraft be allowed to leave.   We were already behind schedule.   The passenger was unceremoniously removed by the officers and the pilot taxied from the gate.

Community Peeps, as I said earlier, both incidences occurred prior to 9/11.  If they had to happen in this day and age, I am sure the outcome would be totally different from what they were back then.  Suspected infringements by other travelers and/or insensitive handling by the flight staff can help to exacerbate any nervousness and tension passengers may already be feeling.  Have you experienced insensitive handling by a crew member at any time while traveling?   Share in the comment box below.

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