Remember when air travel was known as flying the friendly skies? Lately, it seems like passengers on planes are at each other’s throats.
Two back-to-back incidents occurred on commercial flights this week, just days before the busy Christmas holiday, that led to passengers being booted off planes. The reason behind them both: politics and poor behavior.
On Wednesday, Adam Saleh, a popular YouTube vlogger known for pranks intended to expose discrimination against Muslims, was kicked off a Delta Air Lines flight in London. Saleh says other passengers felt uncomfortable that he was speaking to his mother on the phone in Arabic, though a passenger on the flight disputes this account and says Saleh was shouting and being disruptive. Delta defended its actions and published a statement that says Saleh “sought to disrupt the cabin with provocative behavior.”
Before the internet outrage cycle had a chance to subside, a separate incident occurred the next day. A passenger on a JetBlue flight in New York realized that Ivanka Trump, daughter of President-elect Donald Trump, was onboard. According to news reports, the man became agitated and started heckling Ivanka Trump, shouting at her, “Your father is ruining the country.” JetBlue removed the man and his family from the plane and released a statement indicating that the crew was concerned the situation would escalate during flight.
The JetBlue incident recalls a previous political rant that occurred on a Delta flight last month. A video shared on Facebook shows a man standing in the aisle and yelling messages at other passengers in support of Donald Trump. “We got some Hillary bitches on here? Come on, baby. Trump!” he shouts in the video. Delta allowed the man to remain on the flight, but later admitted it made a mistake and says it has banned the passenger for life.
Don’t Disrupt the Flight
All three of these incidents occurred in the wake of the 2016 presidential election in which Republican Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton. Given the tense political climate, it seems likely that similar disruptions will occur.
Here’s the thing: No one wants to hear your political opinion onboard a plane. It doesn’t matter if you are liberal or conservative or anywhere in between, keep it to yourself. There is a time and a place for political debates, but sitting in a confined space with strangers of all backgrounds and beliefs while hurtling through the air at hundreds of miles per hour is not one of them. If you must get something off your chest, type a letter on your phone or laptop to the editor of your local newspaper, but sit there in your seat and do it quietly.
Commercial air travel is nerve-wracking enough. Passengers on airplanes just want to get to their destination as efficiently as possible with no added stress or unexpected changes to their schedule. Making a political statement has the potential to create conflicts, delay flights, divert landings, and disrupt everyone’s travel plans. You’re not changing anybody’s minds by sharing your beliefs, you’re only making a nuisance of yourself.
According to statements released by both Delta and JetBlue, airlines take disruptions aboard flights very seriously. Crew members will remove passengers for disrupting the cabin, causing conflicts, or demonstrating other provocative behavior such as shouting. It’s not worth the hassle.
Be a More Courteous Flyer
These recent political outbursts aboard planes recall the spate of air rage incidents that occurred in 2014 over passengers reclining their seats. A fight broke out between passengers on a United Airlines flight because one of them used the controversial Knee Defender device.
It’s a wonder more passengers don’t crack under pressure as the airlines squeeze us into tighter spaces. To help us all our get to our destinations smoother, show a little kindness to your fellow travelers.
When you board the plane, put your bags away and take your seat quickly. This helps the boarding process move faster so the flight can leave on time. If possible, place your bags in the overhead bin lengthwise with the wheels in first to maximize space and give other passengers a place to stow their carry-ons.
During the flight, don’t slam your seat all the way back as soon as the signal dings. Recline your seat gradually. Some passengers believe that reclining your seat at all is impolite, but the shrinking size of airplane seats makes reclining necessary. Also, if you’re seated by the window or the aisle, yield the armrest to the passenger in the middle seat. When the flight lands, allow passengers seated in front of you to move down the aisle before you.
And if you must engage your seatmate in conversation, stick to small talk like the weather or your holiday plans. Be cognizant of their responses and assess how eager they are to converse. Many passengers simply aren’t comfortable talking to strangers. They may not want to hear your business pitch or how your favorite sports team is doing, much less who you voted for in the presidential election.