News & Politics

Farewell to the 'Friendly Skies'

As you may know, I’m not a fan of pets in general and certainly not in the confined spaces known as airplanes, but if pets were the least of my worries, maybe things wouldn’t be so bad:

The friendly skies are starting to sound downright dangerous. In March alone, stories of rape, fistfights and dead beloved pets have dominated national headlines. And it seems no airline is immune. United, Southwest, American and Alaska Airlines are just a few of the carriers scrambling to explain the behavior of crew members. And tales of passengers gone wild can often be even more harrowing.

In a recent survey of airplane crew members, 67 percent of respondents said they have witnessed passengers behaving aggressively or violently toward each other, and 10 percent have experienced firsthand passenger-initiated violence.

But it’s not just the flyers acting out. Things have gotten so bad with their employees, United just rolled out a compassion training program aimed at teaching employees how to be caring, safe, dependable and efficient. This new system will require around 30,000 customer-facing crew members to attend a four-hour training session to ensure all safety standards are met “with a smile.”

I’m sorry about the dead dog, but there’s really no reason to bring a pet into the passenger compartment; put it in a kennel or leave it with friends. As for “comfort” goats, pigs, and chickens, don’t get me started. Meanwhile, among the fun events in the air:

  • A mix-up with United Airlines resulted in a family’s dog being sent to Japan instead of Kansas. Irgo the German shepherd ended up in the foreign country when his owner, Kara Swindle, was moving with her family and pet from Oregon to Kansas. Swindle was traveling to Wichita with her two small children on one flight and 10-year-old Irgo was being flown out separately the same day. Since Irgo is a large breed, he had to be transported by kennel in the cargo hold of the plane. When Swindle went to pick up her dog from the cargo facility, she discovered Irgo was missing and there was a Great Dane waiting, instead.
  • A man and his young daughter got kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight after the child allegedly wouldn’t sit in her own seat. According to a witness, who recorded a viral video of the incident, the little girl was afraid and acting upset in preparation for takeoff. When the father asked for a minute to deal with his daughter, estimated to be around two years old, the attendant reportedly walked away and called for someone to remove them from the flight.
  • A male American Airlines captain was arrested right before takeoff on a flight scheduled to fly out of São Paulo, Brazil after engaging in a heated argument with a female ground agent. The dispute was reportedly over the alignment of a jet bridge. When the agent accidentally stepped on the pilot’s foot, he became angry, pushing her and grabbing her by the neck, according to witnesses. An airport maintenance worker had to intervene and the flight was cancelled, leaving passengers stranded at the airport. The pilot was arrested and his passport withheld.

And this masterpiece of horror:

  • A passenger was arrested after stripping naked and watching porn on his computer before attacking an airline crew member on a Malindo Air flight from Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, to Dhaka, Bangladesh. Authorities arrested the 20-year-old for his disturbing behavior. After a flight attendant requested he put his clothes back on, the man complied but then later began assaulting the female crew members. Unable to calm him down, with the help of passengers, the crew members retrained the man by tying his hands with a piece of cloth until he could be detained upon landing. The airline said the disruptive passenger was sent to jail by the Bangladesh authorities.

And people wonder why I prefer to drive back and forth between the East Coast and California whenever possible.