April 25, 2011

Flying the Unfriendly Skies

It's no secret to anyone who travels on a regular basis that people are getting, well, unfriendlier when they're in the air or on the road. Lack of consideration for other passengers, arguments over luggage space and at the extreme end threats & assaults on other passengers and crew are sadly becoming the norm rather than the exception in the airline industry.

Without getting into a social commentary on other aspects of society, it can be agreed that this 'misbehaving' in the skies is an alarmingly increasing trend.

Blame oil price rises, extra security measures or Santa Claus all you like, it's not acceptable and shouldn't be tolerated as something which can't be fixed.

The most notable recent case I've heard about is one on a flight to Darwin, where a passenger became verbally abusive & threatening to both fellow passengers & crew.

The article says: "Sydney man Simon Wilson Menzies, 31, was drunk and angry when he told the female cabin crew manager on a flight this week that he could "bring the plane down if he wanted." Menzies said: "I'm half muslim, half Aboriginal and everyone else is a white a*******. I could f******blow up the plane." He then began to sing a song about the plane crashing and everyone dying.

After various altercations with other passengers & (allegedly) the flight's captain, Menzies eventually returned to his seat and was arrested & held overnight on arrival in Darwin.

A court last week convicted him as the first person to be charged under new laws relating to threatening and/or assualting aircraft crew which came into effect on March 30th.

Apparently the passenger had been mixing antidepressants & alcohol & gave this as the reason for his behaviour. Here's where it gets disappointing. According to the article,

(The magistrate) fined him $400 and released him on the suspended sentence in time for his flight to Bali the following morning.

Under the new laws the maximum summary penalty for threatening or assaulting a flight crew member is two years prison or a $13,500 fine.

So, under a new law which allows up to 2 years in prison & a $13,500 fine, this idiot got less than 5% of that amount in a fine and more astonishingly, was allowed BACK ON THE SAME CARRIER to continue his "family holiday".

For threatening a whole planeload of people (whether he meant it or not), the most he got was a slap on the wrist & little deterrent to doing it again. I hope the crew involved file a complaint with the union & the OH&S regulator for failing to provide adequate follow-up & a safe working environment for those crew who had to fly this jerk the next day. He was a known offender & yet was allowed to keep on flying, putting yet more passengers and crew at risk.

In my opinion this is an absolute farce & 'new laws' are only as good as the judges enforcing the punishments handed out under them. This guy probably spent the same amount of money on his airfare & holiday in Bali & the fine would have been no deterrent for anyone else thinking of doing the same thing. People get jail time for lesser offences like unpaid speeding tickets than this guy got. Until the authorities get tougher on imposing sentences to the full extent of the law, I'm afraid that this type of behaviour will only continue if not increase further.

Don't even get me started on the flight crew allegedly getting involved. I hope this part is only media beatup because if they in fact did come out of the cockpit, it was surely a mistake of huge proportions and someone deserves some retraining if this is how it played out! I do think though that the wording of the article may be to blame, and they could well have been talking about this occuring as the passenger was removed on arrival.

This incident follows another as passengers got into a scuffle in Hobart over "carry on" luggage. Sounds like a carry-on, all right!

What do you think about 'air rage' and assaults in the air? Do you think it's increasing? Are the punishments fair or are people getting off 'scot free'? Leave me a comment or let me know what you think on Twitter or Facebook.

(Photos: Restraint: avsec.com, Passengers: Mail Online)


  1. I am really intrigued on how...for example, a female FA can arrest a guy much bigger than her, or even a group of female FAs...

  2. What about a recent QF flight PER-BNE where an intoxicated pax was denied boarding in the aerobridge an became involved in a fistfight with the airport manager, an engineer and a paxing blackbelt pilot was able to subdue him until the Federal Police arrived & it 4 of them to get him cuffed. He then tried to assault the police when getting into their wagon. Apparently he pled guilty to all counts of assault & was fined $750 - that's all!

  3. Hey - I know it seems like I'm plugging my blog, and I guess I am. But, I wanted to share with you that I wrote a piece today called "Aches on a Plane" that you might get a kick out of. Feel free to link. Allie

  4. Anonymous, that's disgusting. You get more for speeding or talking on a mobile phone during a long weekend! He should be banned from air travel.

    There is absolutely no incentive to behave any more!

  5. Bianca, there are generally taught techniques (for anyone, not just FAs) on how to subdue someone of a larger size than you. Any decent self-defence class for women will show you how.

    The rest is an airline secret :P


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