Going Bonkers At 35,000 Feet.
“Fuck you, I’m French.” Really, this was the response to an air marshal aboard a Delta flight from Nice to New York by a passenger when confronted by flight attendants for repeatedly smoking in the restroom. I guess all the no smoking lamps and little signs aboard the plane were not as strong as his nicotine urge. I can almost understand this. Nice to NY is about 8 hours in the air. If you factor in the time in the no smoking airport you probably have ten hours you have to live without satisfying the urge. But “fuck you, I’m French” seems a shallow defense. However believable.
This blog post is about a slew of whacky events in the air lately. Not that zaniness in the friendly skies is anything new; it just seems to be occurring more often. Let us look at a few events that have made the news in the last month.
Passengers going bonkers for one reason or another and trying to open the door of the plane at 35,000 feet has recently become the act of choice for the unbalanced traveler. Aviation experts are at a loss as to why this is the case.
In one recent event, being over served could have been the cause. Flight attendants make poor bartenders. They really should be trained to recognize a person who cannot handle any more booze and cut him off. I say that although I was on a flight from Santiago to Lima one night when a pair of guys who were getting rowdy and demanding more Scotch were cut off. This was in business class! You never say no to premium fare passengers. The two of them made quite a scene, demanded to speak to the captain, and then, thanks to St. Christopher (the patron saint of travelers) they passed out. They were so out of it that they slept through the landing and debarking.
Back to recent events. A 43 year old man on a flight from Orlando to Boston was “apparently drunk” when he tried to open an emergency exit door. He was also upset because the plane was late. A flight from Orlando poses other possible reasons a person would want to jump out at cruising altitude, I’ll get to that later.
Two days prior to this a very similar incident happened on a Continental flight over fly-over country.
The week before that a man rushed up the aisle of a Continental flight from Houston to Chicago, pinned the flight attendant against a wall with one hand and tried to open the door with the other. The flight was diverted to St. Louis and the man was led away hopefully in chains. I guess he just thought better about going to Chicago, or maybe he was a Cubs fan.
According to experts, due to the difference in air pressure inside the cabin and the air pressure at 35,000 feet simply prevents the door from being opened The air pressure in a cabin, according to your source, or the carrier, is kept at an equivalent atmospheric pressure of 5000 to 8,000 feet. So what if the plane is below 8000 feet? In that case the door can be cracked open (as is done if there is smoke in the cabin) but the wind speed would still prevent it from opening enough for any fool to leap out.
So let us examine possible causes for these acts of irrational insanity. I will approach this from my personal experience. No, I have never gone bonkers on a plane, at least demonstratively. Henry David Thoreau said “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” If he were around today I truly believe he would expand that gem of wisdom to include all airline passengers. Don’t get me wrong. I love flying. My father was an airline exec and we flew “non-rev” all the time. First class. It wasn’t until I was in college and bought my own ticket that I ever flew “economy”. Talk about desperation.
The difference between first class and cattle class is like the difference between a suite in the Hilton and a park bench. But then so is the price of the ticket.
A big advantage to flying in first or business is accessibility to lavatories. In the rich folks section, you practically have your own lavatory. In cattle class, depending on the airline and the type of plane, the ratio can be a very scary. 72 passengers to each lavatory is the number number for Delta on domestic flights using a 737-800.
In my recent travels on my first flight to Bangkok from Dubai, I took Gulf Air because it was incredibly cheaper than Emirates or Qatar. I found out why. This was a triple 7 with over 250 seats in steerage, and it was full. There was ONE, 1 ,UNO y no mas, working lavatory in the cheap seats. It got so rank that about an hour out of BKK, they shut it down. A passenger unlocked the door to use the toilet, and he was summarily abused verbally by the flight attendants. I flew back on Qatar and will never fly Gulf Air again.
On a flight from Rio to NY JFK a passenger went “berserk” when his access to the lavatory was blocked by a beverage cart. He was returning to NY after an extended vacation in Brazil because he had run out of his anti-depressant meds. His FB profile lists his hobbies as “shooting guns and helping to maintain the freedom of this country and bring the Constitution back into focus.” He kicked over the beverage cart and punched a flight attendant. Upon arrival he was turned over to an area hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. This event was thoroughly covered by Fox news, which just might be responsible for his state of mind in the first place.
I have learned to book my seats in the last few rows, close to the lavatory, and time my bladder discharge with the passing of the beverage cart. And I do not watch Fox news.
Maybe these people desperately trying to open a door just need to pee.
At least that idea was what some flight attendants figured on an American Airlines flight into SFO last month. A Yemeni passenger started pounding on the door to the cock pit and yelled “Allah Akbar” over and over. The flight attendants thought he was trying to say “I have to pee” and showed him the door to the lavatory. Needless to add, he was arrested upon arrival.
Another thing that perturbs a lot of fliers and for sure me, is when I have to sit next to an obese person.
Many airlines have been criticized for making the obese buy two seats. I will not criticize them for that. If a person is so damn fat that they cannot put down both arm rests they should pay up. Incredibly, some airlines have seat belt extenders for the incredibly obese. There are civil rights activists who fight airlines for profiling fat people. I bet none of their lawyers have ever had to sit next to a 350 pound guy and have him invade the little space you get in a cookie-cutter economy seat. I have not found a reference to anyone going berserk because of this, but I see it on the horizon. Maybe my horizon. But I don’t drink or take meds, so maybe not.
Now, just shudder at the thought of a screaming baby or toddler in your face for 4 to 12 hours. When it happens on an airplane, you simply cannot get away from it.
Remember the guy on the flight from Orlando who went bonkers and tried to open the door? I will be that plane was full of kids who wanted to go back to see Mickey and screamed enough about it to drive passengers Goofy.
There is a lot of talk, just talk, about banning children from business class, and having “family sections” on planes. I cannot help but support this. The only defense is headphones and a good in-flight entertainment system. If you are flying “El-cheapo Airlines” which provides neither, be sure to have an Ipod.
There is a FB page titled “Airlines should have kid free flights.” This page has quite a lively discussion on the subject.
For an example of how bad a flight can be, open this link
The last episode of the mindless in-flight is the story of an “emotionally disturbed” woman in her late twenties stripped nude and ran down the aisle while flight attendants tried to cover her with a blanket. She ran away from them screaming no-no-no. The end result…”she is not expected to face criminal charges” according to NBC. Maybe she was just getting ready for her next TSA experience. Finally some good in-flight entertainment. No photos available, bummer
I hope you enjoyed this. Please hit the share button below so your FB friends can enjoy it too. Make a comment. Share your worst in-flight trauma! I’ll be writing again soon, this time on Safari!