AIRLINES AND PASSENGERS KEEPING THE PEACE

Posted on 07/11/2017 | About Toronto, Ontario

It’s becoming almost a daily occurrence with incidents involving unruly and violent passengers affecting a flight and in some cases causing the plane to divert back. When will this all stop? Who is at fault? How can we bring peace again to the skies?

The rage between airlines and passengers has been percolating for years. Both parties are responsible for the increased tensions.

When many of the airlines were losing money due to skyrocketing fuel and labour costs and a slumping economy, the business model of operating an airline had to change. Old planes needed to be replaced as they were not fuel efficient and there had been more computerized technology. This meant heavy capital expenditures and operating costs at a time when fares were not increasing at the same rate.

The advent of frequent flier programmes and low cost carriers didn’t help the airline coffers either. Low cost carriers starting offering incredibly low fares, flying out of secondary airports with far less expensive landing fees. Traditional carriers ignored these low cost carriers at first thinking they wouldn’t make much of a dent in their market share. Well we all know how that turned out!

Today the low-cost carriers are popping up all over the world but really gained a foothold in Europe with Ryanair and Easyjet flying millions of passengers each year.

The low cost carriers discovered passengers were willing to give up some of the “frills” to get a cheaper airline seat. Last week VivaColombia CEO expressed interest in offering vertical seating on short-haul flights – something Ryanair also pondered a few years ago.

I wouldn’t be surprised if LCC’s start offering coin-operated (or by credit card) washrooms on flights. If you want toilet paper, soap or hand-towel there will be additional charges for that – take the all-in toilet package for only $9.99 per washroom trip!

Now, choice is great – passengers asked for it and airlines gave it. But personally I think some of these so-called “frills” are not frills at all. I’ve always believed checking in a first bag is not a frill. I travel constantly around the world and may be gone up to two weeks. I usually have to take both business and more casual attire. My carry-on (a camera bag) includes a laptop, camera/lenses and work files.

I have no issue with airlines charging me for a 2nd bag. Charging for first bags has led to many travellers bringing on multiple carry-on bags. Every day flights are delayed because there is so much time taken of passengers trying to fit the multiple bags into overhead bins and end up going in with the checked bags.

I wish airlines would get stricter with passengers and have a uniform policy around the world the amount you can bring on as carry-on. Please bring back the first bag free too!

We want cheap airfares but still all the comforts that come with it. Those days are long gone. But all passengers have rights and should be treated with respect and friendliness. I can survive without the peanuts but can you give me decent seat pitch!

In defence of the airlines and crews they have a tough job. Passengers have become increasingly unruly and frankly some act like obnoxious pigs. There have always been bad passengers but seldom has there been such a high level of anger, frustration and stupidity as there is today.

Passengers feel like they have no rights and are sometimes treated like cattle. As airlines jam in more seats on a plane people’s bodies are overall getting bigger (especially in North America). Discomfort and feeling boxed in doesn’t help the mood. The possibility of terrorism creates anxiety while flying even though the chances are very remote. Adding in drugs and alcohol can be a perilous mix for someone already agitated.

In defence of the airlines the airline crews do an admirable job. Sure, they could be friendlier but it’s not an easy job – they are people too and do their best. Communication or lack thereof by the airlines is where things spiral downwards. Most understand weather or a mechanical problem can delay a flight. Regular and straightforward communication is key and appreciated. In many cases this doesn’t happen.

Check-in and gate personnel need to be empowered more by management to provide timely communication and make decisions that affect passengers.

I wish courts would impose harsher penalties on passengers who cause disruptions requiring diversions. The actions of one passenger affect so many –passengers on a flight might be going to a destination wedding, a family reunion, crucial medical appointment, important business meeting or just a desperately needed vacation.

Passengers who affect the lives of so many with their action should have to pay – with a prison term (depending on the seriousness of what they did) but at the very least pay reparations to the airline and possibly other passengers. Hopefully then people may think twice before disrupting and threatening the lives of the flight crew and other passengers. In this day and age there is no excuse with the threat of terrorism on everyone’s mind.

Airlines (and some do already) should be better trained how to handle situations with unruly and potentially violent passengers. Learning how to diffuse the situation before it reaches that critical stage before a plane needs to be diverted. Knowing the signs of mental illness and how best to deal with it. The crew does their best but with increasing incidents reviewing and updating the training procedures would be helpful to insure the crew’s safety and all passengers.

For the airlines let’s reduce the amount of nickel and diming of passengers and communicate better with passengers. For travellers let’s understand being civil with airline personnel and fellow passengers will make it a better experience for all – the crew are doing their job under stressful circumstances.

Let’s simply make it the friendly skies again.