Government officials and airlines are failing at efforts to fight air rage, and that's angering the people who have to deal with the consequences, airline labor groups say.
The Association of Flight Attendants, the nation's largest union for flight attendants, says Federal Aviation Administration officials, the Justice Department and airlines are not doing enough and gives them all failing grades in a "report card" released today.
"Our U.S. airlines have failed to promote cabin safety over their profits," Patricia Friend, head of the flight attendants' organization, said today. "They have failed adopt training guidelines issued by the FAA, they've failed to take the full responsibility for these air rage incidents, and they've failed to support workers who are victims of air rage."
She said that there were 4,000 air rage incidents documented last year, but that only a handful of problem passengers had been fined.
Day of Action Against Air Rage
The report today coincides with the second annual Day of Action Against Air Rage — a campaign sponsored by several airline workers' unions.
The report card, an assessment of air rage incidents, is intended to bring attention to what the unions say is government neglect in the face of a rising number of air rage incidents. One reason officials underestimate the air rage problem, the AFA says, is that many incidents are not reported.
"I think it happens more often than the public would like to believe it happens, but the problem is nobody's doing anything about it. That means the airlines," customer service representative Jean Lebo said.
The AFA complains federal officials have concealed the magnitude of the problem by only reporting incidents that lead to law enforcement involvement.
Because airlines are not required to report every instance, there is a great discrepancy in rage statistics between the AFA and the FAA. Citing the Air Transport Association, AFA officials say there are approximately 4,000 air rage incidents a year. The FAA says only 314 clashes were reported last year. In 1998 and 1999, there were 281 and 306 incidents reported, respectively.
Air Rage Numbers Don't Add Up
At the news conference today unveiling the report, flight attendants took turns relating their horror stories in the air.
"I tried to calm her one final time. As I got quieter, the louder she got, and as I was saying please calm down, she slammed me across the face," flight attendant Lynn White said, describing a flight from San Francisco to China where two passengers became enraged.
Air rage clashes have continued to make headlines in recent months. In April, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck apologized for an incident in which two British Airway staff members said he assaulted them in a drunken rage during a flight to London.
Last week, a Wyoming man was arrested for allegedly attacking two Great Lakes Aviation employees as he waited for his sister to arrive on her delayed flight.
Not even airline workers can seem to escape the rage: a British Columbia woman — who was also a planner for Transport Canada — allegedly punched a flight attendant when she was told she could not smoke on the flight to Toronto.
Air Rage: Flight Attendants' Secret Weapon?