As the hottest summer ever heats further, irate passengers are starting to flip out on Hawaii flights and others. Another day, another diversion. Is that how this hottest of all summers will play out on flights to Hawaii and elsewhere? It looks so, and honestly, we aren’t looking forward to that part as we travel. What about you? We’re wondering about the likelihood of encountering something like this on our own travels.
Yesterday we reported on the Southwest Hawaii diversion resulting from an airdropped threat to the plane that the airline took very seriously. But then we see this morning that Alaska has had its own Boeing 737 MAX 9 diversion since then, this one on a flight that connects to Hawaii rather than on the Hawaii flight itself. But even weirder, a British Airways passenger broke a wine bottle onboard on another totally unrelated flight and started attacking other passengers. That reminded us of the recent Hawaii flight incident when a passenger used a broken-off utensil as a weapon on a flight, only perhaps even worse.
Image courtesy of FAA.
In the latest passenger-behavior-related incident, Spokane’s TV station reported the event, which Alaska responded to by saying that, in fact, “There was a security incident Wednesday afternoon involving Alaska Airlines Flight 334 from Atlanta to Seattle. A male guest made a direct threat to the safety of our aircraft and to one of our flight attendants. As a precaution, the flight was diverted to Spokane and landed safely at 5:15 p.m.” No further information was provided since this is an ongoing federal crime investigation.
With 177 passengers and 6 crew on board, that flight was en route for about 70 minutes when law enforcement became aware of the bomb threat and planned emergency diversion. Less than 30 minutes later, the plane was on the ground in Spokane based on data from FlightAware. The aircraft was taken to a non-terminal location for safe unloading away from other flights.
One male passenger was removed from the flight and arrested. As a precaution, the airport was closed for about two hours, delaying both flight departures and arrivals. The flight resumed later last night and arrived in Seattle less than one hour later. That is a flight we use to connect us back to Hawaii from the Atlanta area.
The hottest summer of all: Hawaii air rage continues
Why are passengers getting so irate and taking it out on other passengers and the airlines? There was a time that we talked about Covid-related air rage. Now that is in the rear-view mirror, but these incidents still happen almost daily and seem to be heading for a new level of horrible.
ACLU blames the airlines for air rage incidents.
In April, ACLU said, “If Congress wants to further reduce air-rage incidents on aircraft, it should look at forcing the airlines to make flying a less miserable experience.” This came as Congress attempted to develop a new version of a national no-fly list.
In another incident earlier this year, a passenger attempted to open the emergency exit and then stabbed a flight attendant with a broken spoon.
Hawaii recently had 10 recent unruly passenger incidents.
In January, an unruly passenger problem caused a flight to Brisbane to divert to Hawaii when a passenger “choked out” a flight attendant before being restrained with zip ties. The man was swiftly arrested upon landing in Honolulu.
Then you’ll recall the day we had not one but two unruly passenger incidents that caused Hawaii flight diversions on American Airlines.
Also, an unruly passenger diversion caused a Southwest Hawaii flight to return to the islands last December. Then there was the Hawaiian Airlines flight, where the plane returned to the gate so the passenger could be removed before even departing. That was the irate and abusive California woman who was inadvertently seated in economy after buying business class.
And don’t forget the UAL SFO to HNL flight that turned back to San Francisco because of erratic passenger behavior late last year. And the list goes on in terms of Hawaii flights, even to the passenger from JFK to HNL that tried to breach the Hawaiian Air cockpit.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) just said that unruly passenger incidents were up 47% in 2022 compared with 2021.
What are your chances of being on a plane with behavior like this?
Luckily, even as common as it seems to be based on the news each day, IATA said that chances are one in 568 that you’ll encounter this. Editor Jeff said that his odds are probably up after flying too much for so long. Reports of bad behavior rose from the 2021 rate rate of 1 incident per 835 flights, IATA found.
Aviation’s first responders?
It’s interesting to note that the flight attendants’ union (AFT) has said that they de-escalate 99% of the problems so they never get to this point. They are “aviation’s first responders.”
The significant issues that still occur, according to IATA, are related to 1) non-compliance with crew instructions, 2) verbal abuse, and 3) alcohol intoxication.
Why have Hawaii flights become such a bummer?
Is it just us, or are these concerns, among others, just adding to the frustration of being a passenger, no matter which airline? It isn’t that behavior is that much better at Home Depot, for example, it’s just that having it happen at 30,000 feet brings up a very different level of concern. As one of the flight attendants was quoted as repeatedly saying after the airdrop on the Southwest Hawaii diversion this week, “‘Get me the ‘F’ off this plane.”