What do a supermodel, a beloved soap opera actress, and a child have in common? None is immune to getting kicked off an airplane.
Lately, it seems we’ve been seeing more people kicked out of airplanes than a beginners’ parachuting class. Just last weekend, model Kate Moss was removed from an easyJet flight from Turkey to London on claims she was being “disruptive."
Last week, “All My Children” star Jennifer Bassey was escorted off a Delta flight by police. Bassey later told Fox News she’d argued with a flight attendant who was upset Bassey used hand sanitizsr rather than soap after using the bathroom. Bassey claims the ticked-off flight attendant later bumped her hand, accused Bassey of touching her, and then had her thrown off the flight.
And in late May, Canadian musician Sarah Blackwood was kicked off a United Airlines flight after her 23-month-old son started throwing a tantrum as the plane was taxiing (the airline claims Blackwood was removed for failing to secure her child).
How can such minor confrontations lead to people getting removed from an airplane, whose primary goal, one would think, is to keep people on airplanes? In all three of cases, the airlines faced media accusations that they overreacted. In the Kate Moss case, The Guardian quotes several witnesses who say the only trouble they saw on their flight came not from Moss, but from the “grumpy” cabin crew.
This spate of extreme seat re-assignments brings up two sticky questions: 1.) Are flight crews given too much power over passengers? 2.) Is that power leading flight attendants to "jump to the dump” at the slightest provocation?
“Absolutely,” says travel columnist and author Christopher Elliott, who recently wrote a blog post titled “Are Flight Attendants on a Power Trip?” (Hope he’s been keeping an eye on his in-flight drinks). “To you, me, and to most of the rest of the world, it does look like flight attendants have overstepped their boundaries."
Elliott says he understands why flight attendants may have shorter fuses right now. "Since 9/11, they’ve been told that they’re the last line of defense when there’s another act of terrorism, which is an incredibly heavy burden for them to be carrying around,” he says. At the same time, he notes, the job of a flight attendant hasn’t exactly been lucrative. “Your retirement is gone, your pay’s been cut, your wages have been frozen — so with all that happening you’re not feeling particularly warm and fuzzy about your job right now."
Add to that, less than ideal passengers — who are cranky themselves at being crammed into crowded planes and, let’s face it, aren’t always bastions of civility. And what do you have? Elliott says someone’s probably getting booted off the plane. "Passengers are getting more upset and ruder. There’s a decline in civility and you have flight attendants who really feel like their employers have almost abandoned them,” he says. “This is all going in a very bad direction right now.”
Needless to say, there are more than a few flight attendants who disagree. “Power trip? Please. What power?!” asks flight attendant Heather Poole, author of “Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet.” “We might have the power to ask people to act civilised so things don’t get out of control? So the flight can land safe and sound where it’s supposed to?"
Poole rejects the notion that flight attendants get off on telling passengers to... um... get off. "It’s a really big deal for us to have a passenger removed,” she says, noting that disruptive passengers are given every chance to calm down before being asked to leave — which Poole says is last resort (and an expensive one, given how the ensuing delay can cost airlines a lot of money). “Nobody wants to go in on a day off to talk to a manager about who made that decision,” she says.
But it must be pointed out that sometimes — okay, a lot of times — passengers have it coming. “Some people just don’t like being told what to do,” says Poole. “Some people think they’re special and therefore beyond following the rules."
And when those people get disruptive, obnoxious or violent, they gotta go (by the way, Poole points out the final decision to kick off a passenger rests with the captain, not the flight attendant).
"Really, we do not enjoy rocking the boat — or in this case, the plane,” Poole says. “But sometimes we have to. There’s no calling the cops or the fire department or an ambulance at 35,000 feet, which is why we always try to take care of potential problems on the ground.”
So is it possible that one individual flight attendant may have too short of a fuse and overreact by having someone removed from a flight? Absolutely. Is it possible that one individual passenger may be so insufferably boorish that their getting kicked off a flight is not only justified, but applauded by other passengers. Certainly.
Fortunately, one fact remains: despite all the headlines, it remains really, REALLY hard to get kicked off an airplane. Heck, most of us take entire flights where we leave the plane only after it’s reached its destination and a smiling flight attendant tells us “bye-bye."
"Really we don’t ask for much,” says Poole. “I mean really just get on, sit down, and buckle up — be nice.”
Of course, we might feel differently if we ever get asked to leave a plane.
This article originally appeared on Yahoo Travel.