"Air rage" is on the rise. During the past four to five years, the number of reported incidents has increased significantly, according to the International Air Transport Association. The reason? Overbooked flights and longer delays are testing passengers' patience.
On a recent trip to Spain, for example, a flight attendant was beaten with a broken vodka bottle. Earlier this year, a flight on its way to Chicago had to make a mid-flight U-turn because an apparently intoxicated passenger began beating his girlfriend.
Airlines are trying to stop the mile-high madness. Virgin Atlantic Airways chairman Richard Branson is supporting a plan to blacklist violent passengers. And the German Pilots Association wants crew members to parcel out nicotine gum to smokers who are cut off from their cigarettes and to limit the number of drinks served by flight attendants.
Air rage activist Mike Sheffer says travelers are also vulnerable to unprovoked attacks. "It can happen anytime," he warns. He should know. His wife, who's a flight attendant, was assaulted by a passenger who tried to break down the door to the cockpit to "bless the pilot."
"Be aware of your surroundings," Sheffer recommends. "Notice who's getting on the airplane with you. If someone seems to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, point it out to the gate agent or a law-enforcement official. It's illegal to board while under the influence."
Sheffer also advises passengers to alert a crew member if a fellow passenger is drinking too much during a flight or suddenly turns abusive. And, he adds "Get moved if possible."
Christopher Elliott is a writer in Annapolis, Maryland. Contact him at http://www.elliott.org
Christopher Elliott is an Orlando, Fla., writer and independent producer who specializes in technology, travel and mobile computing. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and online. You can find out more about him on his website or sign up for his free weekly newsletter.