They’ve been threatened with huge fines, banished from flying on individual airlines and even warned about criminal prosecution but the post-pandemic epidemic of bad behavior by passengers on airliners was evident on a trip to Charlotte last week. Near the end of the ordeal, one of the flight attendants took the only measure they hadn’t tried. He gave them a good tongue lashing. In a PA announcement, naturally captured on cellphone video, the flight attendant, likely the steward, told the passengers they’d made the flight from Los Angeles “a living hell” and told them they should be ashamed of themselves. According to news reports, the cockpit crew did not intervene.

Things got tense when weather prevented the flight from landing on schedule. After some time in the hold, the plane headed to Raleigh for fuel before trying Charlotte again. The hungry, frustrated pax got restless after being on the ground in Raleigh for more than an hour. One 22-year-old man in particular was the center of attention after calling one female flight attendant a “fat gorilla” and a male colleague a “drama queen.” At one point the male flight attendant threatened to ask the flight crew to return to the gate to turn the offenders over to the police but in the end he opted to allow the flight to continue on the 30-minute flight to Charlotte. “We’re just trying to go to Charlotte,” he said. “But shame on the passengers that have made this flight a living hell for the flight attendants.” There was a smattering of applause.

The plane landed in Charlotte without incident and none of the passengers were detained. The airline did provide a statement to the Charlotte Observer the next day, however. “We value the trust our customers place in our team to care for them it throughout their journey, and we expect those who choose to fly with us to treat each other—and our team members—with respect,” it said in part.

In another incident, an off-duty flight attendant had to be wrestled to the floor of the Delta aircraft he was travelling on after he grabbed the PA mic and told his fellow passengers sit down and put on their oxygen news. The flight from LAX to Atlanta diverted to Oklahoma City after cabin crew members and passengers subdued the man. The captain had called for “all strong male passengers” to help control the man.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Frankly, either the crew should have made good on their threat or they shouldn’t have made it. Infuriating.

    • I’m with you Chris, the crew really needed to show some leadership and they didn’t. Completely infuriating.

    • I’m going to disagree. Assigning the death penalty every time someone j-walks may not be appropriate. Rather, the FA let the unruly passengers that their behavior was not appropriate or appreciated, and sometimes shame will cause people to re-think their actions. It’s when people are not reminded that small actions snowball into larger actions. Sometimes a little braking action is the best response. Nothing wrong with the possible threat though, if someone will not settle down, then is the time to take additional actions.

    • Scolding irrational people is not only pointless, it can cause an escalation to violence. Bad move by the flight crew.

    • Unfortunately, unruly passengers are becoming greater especially during this pandemic. As usual, the occasional drunk who’s had one too many before boarding, extremely uncivilized ones throwing out their self centered attitudes in defiance of everything from racism, foul mouthing, total disregard of following simple rules during flight, are growing. Banishment from traveling on the airline they disrupted seems to be one way to address it with offenses of physical attacks amounting to jail and/or heavy fines for delaying or forcing a stop over for deplaning and arrest as severe punishment. Smoking was tolerated for decades then banned as a few insisted but arrested. Acts of defiance towards flight attendants carrying out their duties to safeguard passengers complying while serving food and drink seems to defy the new passengers refusing to comply with simple rules. Airlines are privately owned and can institute rules for safety. Masking is temporary but a necessity for the overall health and well being when flying in a closed commercial flight no different from someone inadvertently carrying the flu and spreading their coughs and sneezes. A recent news coverage of a water slide with explosive diarrhea from water borne giardia spread like wildfire serves as another example of how germs spread indiscriminately.

    • In today’s “ITS ALL ABOUT ME” world? Simple answer: No

      Nowadays, kids are brought up in a permissive environment never hearing the word “no”, and believing the world owes them a living – everything’s “free”. These individuals become belligerent at the least indication something’s not going their way, and this attitude manifests itself on the airlines when they learn that there are certain standards of behavior expected, limiting what they can say or do. Bad parenting is the primary cause of these attitudes, but social media is also a contributing factor that exacerbates it. And when the going-in assumption is “It’s all about me”, the result is predictable when an individual discovers it may not be.

  2. This is managements ultimate fault. Reduce the seat pitch and distance to the adjacent seat so people are extremely uncomfortable then institute a now unproven mask mandate and continue to shove it down people’s throats is ridiculous throw in no food, little drink and FA’s who have had enough and this is what you get. Then management’s refusal to ban any passenger who might be potential revenue and the unruly just keep on coming.

    • Tom – I agree with you on the seats. But food and drink? That’s how one keeps kids occupied. These are adults… well… they have some age. They should act like an adult and not whiny toddlers.

      • Perhaps the mandate the flight deck sitting less than six feet apart is permitted to ignore while in flight?

        • Comparing the science and protocols of the flight deck to the same of the hundreds in the coach area is stunningly obtuse.

    • There was a time when traveling from Los Angeles to Charlotte took many weeks in a Conestoga wagon. Later that time was maybe reduced to a week on noisy smelly trains. At this point we reduced the time it takes to go from Los Angeles to Charlotte to a mere few hours and yet it’s management’s fault for the behavior of adults on modern transportation vehicle? People *know* what they are buying so it is not like “surprise! You thought you were getting comfy seats and we changed them at the last minute”. I know coach is hell so I just learn to cope for the few hours it takes to arrive.

      I can agree that like a parent, if a flight crew, be it flight deck or cabin make a threat they should follow through with it. However, the company may not appreciate that view since it cost them more money and then that employee may lose their job (back to the gate decision). I also agree that should a passenger that creates a scene in an airplane that rises to the level of interfering with a flight crew, if not charged with hijacking, be put on a no fly list permanently across all airlines across all countries AND fined.

      It’s as simple as that; if you’re not responsible enough to act as an adult for a few hours despite whatever discomforts you may have then you don’t belong in an airplane and perhaps you should go back to that Conestoga wagon where one can complain about how long it is taking to get to the destination. If that means wearing a GD mask them wear it or don’t fly. If I want to get to LA and I have the choice between driving three days but “Iz got myz freeedum” or wearing a jumpsuit for the flight, give me the jump suit.

      • The aircrew is not there to parent these people. The FAA said it was hammer time.
        Don’t ban these people. Make them wish they never flew. Treat them as terrorists highjacking a plane. The crew can not safely operate the aircraft for the others with this kind of conduct.
        If the plane has to return to the gate and lock them up… JUST DO IT
        And make them pay for the cost of returning to the gate. Yes, fine them for the cost of returning. $10,000 min.
        These people will get the message.

  3. “an off-duty flight attendant had to be wrestled to the floor of the Delta aircraft he was travelling on after he grabbed the PA mic and told his fellow passengers [to] sit down and put on their oxygen news”

    Oxygen news?

    • If they had to pay min $10,000 to return to the gate and spend the good part of a decade in federal prison working off their debt…
      This crap would end quickly.

      • If one had to pay a million for making a lousy argument, this comment section would be mostly empty, lol.

        I get that bad behavior is frustrating, but the punishment needs to fit the crime, and the process for applying it needs to be reliably just, and there needs to be even stricter rules on provoking people and corrupting the system.

        None of our airlines are, in my opinion, capable of being trusted with the responsibility of accusing people for those fines. That’s not to say they are irresponsible because they are very responsible when it comes to safety.

        Outside of that though, not so much.

  4. The only way to avoid these issues is to fly your own plane. Insulated from all that drama then.

  5. Start charging them with hijacking the aircraft.
    A few 20 to life sentences will make people real cooperative.
    They use to do this when we had all women attendants.

  6. Post it on their tickets. Interference with any flight crew will be deemed as a hijacking attempt.
    Very simple… Just state “you are attempting to take over the fight”.
    You will be arrested for ‘hijacking’ this flight if I can no longer do my function as a crew member.
    Start charging these people with hijacking, not disorderly conduct.
    20 to life will straighten people up real quick.
    If they did this to a pilot, it is exactly how I would charge them.

    • Good idea. Then the airlines can stop hogging the sky and we can stop having to dodge all the congested air space.

  7. There is no excuse for this kind of behavior. None whatsoever. Yeah, I know the arguments about less seat room etc. But, that is what it is. If passengers cannot deal with the present state of airline travel, they should find another means. Zero tolerance for this kind of behavior period. And no, the customer is not always right.

    • Agree completely! And some years ago, I actually have done L.A. to Charlotte several times on a bus, Trailways, three days and three nights. If you don’t like flying, that choice is still out there….Greyhound now though.

    • That is the problem… they are not ‘unruly passengers’ they are terrorists highjacking a plane and should be treated as such.

  8. Yo Russ. Steward? They haven’t used that term since the ’60’s.
    No food? It was a 30 minute flight. That’s not enough time to even get the beverage carts out.
    You wanted cheap airline tickets, well, you got them.

  9. Oh, a scolding. Scary. Lose the mask mandate and you’ll get back to normal. Why is that so hard to comprehend. Yeah unruly passengers are a bother, but half of the blame is on your refusal to address the root cause of increased stress levels. Masks are a visible indicator to everyone that you should not be comfortable. Don’t be surprised when someone blows their top anywhere. You dragged this out too long, pandemic, if there was one, is over. Tell me YOU liked the last year, the longest two weeks in history. I’m not saying I approve of this behavior, I don’t, but I understand.

    • Spot on comment! Pandemic is over! Even California is supposed to be easing these silly restrictions this week!

    • Brain Dead Biden doesn’t know the pandemic is over… he also doesn’t know he crapped his pants.
      When we finally get the guy laying in state in the White House replaced, things might return to normal.

      • I say this politely, but why would you think there is a prerogative for any of us/you to take this thread in such a political and rude direction? Why? The entire spectrum of political beliefs are probably readers of AVWeb. You doing so can have the thread shut down from us being able to make any further on topic comments. AVWeb has indeed done that in the past. In fact, they disabled all ability to comment for a long time.

  10. When first employed by the airline in the 60’s, the fares were high enough to keep the rabble off planes and on buses. Fares have not kept up with rate of inflation and now bus people have migrated to the air and seats are crammed with them. If you don’t like the pitch, buy first class or take the train/bus. Bad behavior started before Covid…it has simply accelerated it.

  11. Suck my d…, fat gorilla? drama queen? Sounds like normal talk now days especially coming from L.A.
    Fly the friendly sky’s and bring your headset for $69.95.