Aboard Dallas commercial airplanes you could almost cut the tension with a knife. Emotions are thick, stress rules aggressive reactions and suddenly the simple requirement to have on a face mask turns into a reason for an argument or a physical confrontation.
While meltdowns have been reported in stores, restaurants, or offices, a flight poses extra challenges since the options are narrower. You can’t evacuate unruly people while the plane is flying, and the stakes are so much higher.
“You can’t refuse service halfway through the flight. You’ve got all these factors coming together including the entire airport experience, which is designed to dehumanize and augment stress,” aviation psychologist Erin Bowen shared with The Dallas Morning News.
What are the details?
Are we headed for even trickier flights with the surging infection cases due to the delta variant? Will passengers get completely out of control and flight attendants have to learn martial arts to stay safe?
The road back to a normal trip will certainly be a long one.
“Before you step on the plane, you’ve got people who are already anxious,” Bowen explains.
Several unruly passengers are reported each week and many flight attendants say they are “stretched to the limit,” as the news outlet points out.
“The saying about death by a thousand paper cuts, for the casual traveler, that’s what the experience is like right now. The pandemic has exacerbated the problems that are already out there causing stress for travelers,” the specialist said, emphasizing that commercial airlines are the most common battle zone right now.
If flying can be stressful in the best of times, the COVID environment makes it downright explosive.
“When you have got people that stepped back from their jobs and then are coming back, they have to learn the routine all over again, too. Flight attendants have one of the toughest jobs there is, and they are a necessary part of the safety process on a plane. Historically, they haven’t had to deal with the threat of being punched in the face or physically attacked,” Bowen said.
Bringing back son many crew members is a challenge in itself. And when you add up all the passengers who refuse to wear masks or abide by other safety regulations it can all turn into chaos in just a few seconds.
The specialist also believes that social media is not the right tool to have calm flights again. In this case, the constant sharing of disturbing behavior is like a “normalizing” trend which doesn’t help anyone be prepared for the next challenge.
“The more we share these incidents on social media, the more we think it’s common. The more we think it’s acceptable behavior.”