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This Incident Proves That The End of The Mask Mandate Won’t Stop Unruly Passenger Incidents

This Incident Proves That The End of The Mask Mandate Won’t Stop Unruly Passenger Incidents

The union that represents flight attendants at Southwest Airlines has written to President Joe Biden asking the White House to rescind the federal face mask mandate.  One of the reasons the flight attendants would like the mandate abolished is because of the surge in unruly passenger incidents.

It’s true that since the start of the pandemic there has been a worrying rise in unruly and sometimes violent passenger incidents.  In one case, a Southwest flight attendant had two of her teeth knocked out by a passenger who objected to being chided for not wearing her face mask properly.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), of 961 unruly passenger incidents reported to the agency in the year to March 21, some 635 incidents related directly to the face mask mandate.

In other words, face masks are accounting for two-thirds of all unruly passenger incidents currently being reported to the FAA.  Lifting the mandate should, it’s argued, result in a massive drop in unruly passenger incidents.

That may well end up being the case but sadly the reality is likely to be a little messier.

British low-cost carrier Jet2 was one of the very first airlines in the world to drop face mask rules on all of its flights earlier this month but an unruly passenger incident just weeks later forced an emergency diversion.

Jet2 flight LS895 from Manchester to Turkey was around an hour and a half into its journey when a commotion broke out in the cabin.  Video footage taken by a passenger on the flight showed a woman shouting at cabin crew.  Neither she nor the crew was wearing face masks.

In fact, that wasn’t what the argument was about at all.  Somehow the crew remained calm throughout.  Indeed, one crew member went about her normal work routine as if this was part and parcel of flying nowadays.

According to witnesses, the woman had been upset before even boarding the plane but things escalated when she slapped another passenger when they said something to her. An argument broke out and then things got even more heated when the woman took her quarrel to the front of the aircraft.

In the end, the Captain decided to divert to Vienna, Austria where the woman was removed by local police.

The root cause of the woman’s bad behaviour hasn’t been established but alcohol may have played a part.  Indeed, after face mask incidents, alcohol-induced unruly passenger incidents are a big problem for airlines.  

Unions successfully fought to stop alcohol service for most of the pandemic fearing that when twinned with face mask disputes all hell could break out.  That might actually have proved counterintuitive because passengers simply brought their own booze or preloaded in airport bars.

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