While reading The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal or any national paper, look for the articles about attacks on flight attendants.

Across the country on nearly every airline, the skies have become awash in unruly and disrespectful passengers.

Let me say upfront that I think the mask mandate is a good idea until we get vaccination rates well above where we are as a nation, which is only about 56 percent. Feel free to disagree, of course, but if a business or business group makes it a rule, then it is the rule.

When we buy a ticket to fly, we agree to the rules of the airline, like the weight of our suitcase, our seat assignment or that we board from a particular gate. One does not have the right, having purchased the ticket — a form of contractual agreement — to add 10 pounds to your suitcase with no charge or just sit where you want.

So too you have agreed to fly while wearing a face mask if that is the rule. I mention this because often that is the bone of contention, but it is not the only one. Apparently there is a desire to be up and walking the cabin at will, to try to access the flight deck, to not have the attendant take your tray/snack prior to landing — or for no particular reason at all. Some passengers hit the attendant in the head with a fully closed fist as they exit the plane.

It is time, well beyond time, that we ask our legislators to support a bill that would empower the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the unions for pilots and flight attendants to establish national laws that would make the attempt and the actual attack on crew members a federal crime. There should be a no-fly list that one is put on, not merely for the airline on which the attack occurs, but that runs across all airlines and flights that originate within our borders. Enough is enough.

According to the FAA, there have been nearly 5,115 incidents of unruly passengers as of November. More than 3,710 of those incidents were related to the wearing of face masks. Physical assault has become a common theme onboard our flights.

Flight attendants are not waiters. They are people who see that order and safety are maintained. In any emergency it is their skill and knowledge that will get your butt safely down the inflatable ramp or out on the wing on the water, as we saw in the Hudson River over a decade ago. Sure, they offer you coffee, but it is not the coffee you will need.

It is their skill of keeping calm in a moment of terror that you will need. It is their directing you to do what you should have read but mostly do not on the “pamphlet in the back of the seat in front of you.”

Yep, when the skies get bumpy and you’re scared; when you need something for your baby that you forgot; when you are having a panic attack — it is the flight attendant who will try to help you. Right now, the person across the aisle may feel that they need to punch them in the face or yell at them because he/she wants to get up during take-off or landing. Whom will you stand with?

Fines are all well and good, but often aren’t collected. And other than taking money out of a paycheck and not being able to fly that one airline, offenders can take that behavior to the next airline and punch out another crew member.

We need to make this stop by banning them from all flights after the first attack. It is domestic terrorism in the sky, pure and simple. Selfish and stupid actions deserve rebuke. We should stand with those who will save our lives.

Joyce Reehling lives in Pinehurst. She retired from New York after a 33-year career in theater, TV and commercials.

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(11) comments

Conrad Meyer

First, I agree that people should be on their best behavior when on an airplane. Everyone’s’ safety is in play. I will not debate the mask issue as this gets plenty of debate elsewhere.

Let’s examine some data before we jump to conclusions and demand any sort of action.

Let’s use Joyce’s source for more insight. Look at the FAA website which she conveniently did not provide: https://www.faa.gov/data_research/passengers_cargo/unruly_passengers/

The FAA data says that as of 11/23/21 there have been 5,338 Unruly Passenger Reports, 3,856 of which were Mask-related (that is 72% of the total). Of that, only 1,023 Investigations were initiated which suggests to me that most were resolved amicably. Only 266 cases, or about 5% of the total were forwarded for Enforcement.

I think we would all agree that 5,338 unruly passenger reports are far too high but let’s look at the big picture (which Joyce conveniently ignores). A chart on the website she used shows that lately, the Unruly Passenger Rate is down dramatically since the first of the year. Since June, the actual rate of Reported Unruly Passenger Incidents is about 6 per 10,000 Flights. (Currently, there are about 18,000 flights per week).

Joyce, you can’t make this stuff up! You would have to fly once a day for over 4 years to experience an unruly passenger incident, much less one that was referred for Enforcement!

Then again Joyce, maybe the root cause of your concern is based in the destination and origin locations. The data is not broken down by region but since I know you are from the northeast, perhaps that is the cause of your angst.

Put me down as someone that doesn’t think we need even more control and legislation from Joyce’s nanny state. I rate Joyce’s rant a D- as she is way out of her lane on this one. Barely worth lining a bird cage with. Stick to theater instead.

Conrad Meyer

I see that I mis-typed a number above. Currently there re 180,000 flights per week, not 18,000.

Peyton Cook

The airlines don’t need any Government laws or regulations to deal with the problem. They are capable to handle it themselves..

Sally Larson

Do you have an example of how they would take care of it themselves?

Conrad Meyer

Fly much Sally? Just asking. I have flown over 1 million miles (before and after air marshals) and have seen unruly people many times before. The ground crew or air crew has always taken care of the issue, rarely with help from the passengers.

Sally Larson

Hahaha, I guess not! I do think there should be some serious penalties for people who do that though. People have just gotten so angry these days.

Jim Tomashoff

See my comment to Peyton. I didn't think you were as big a moron as he is. Guess I was wrong.

Jim Tomashoff

So Peyton, the airlines, you believe, have the authority to arrest people, bring them to a Court, try them and if convicted (before whom?) impose and collect fines, and further, if they so choose, imprison people who assault their personnel. I had no idea airlines had these powers. Up to now I'd always thought these were powers reserved for governments (local, state, or federal). Thanks for the update (moron!).

Sally Larson

I completely agree, I just don't understand how people think they have a right to attack another person like that.

Suzanne Martin

True enough. The only thing keeping me from flying now are the customers who insist on acting out and making the flight a misery for everyone - especially flight attendants.

Conrad Meyer

Please don't fly. Your chance of experiencing an airline crash is about 1 in 11 million.

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