Frequent fliers in China, especially those in Shanghai and Beijing, must be used to the frequent flight delays by now. Nobody likes it, but coping with delays that can be hours has become a way of life at airports in many major cities. Most airline passengers on domestic flights have resigned themselves to the fact.
However, there are some who refuse to come to terms with the reality that their flight is unlikely to take off on time. They do the most cowardly thing and take it out on the helpless ground staff and cabin crews, most of whom are young women.
Air rage has become an all too frequent accompaniment to flight delays, graphically laid bare by video footage showing boorish passengers attacking airline staff and destroying property at check-in counters.
In one instance, a young woman employee of an airline was seen being repeatedly slapped on the head by a passenger, identified as a secondary school teacher, who lost control of herself after learning that her flight had been delayed because of air space congestion.
In another incident, also captured on video, a man who was said to be a government official of a second-tier city, was seen throwing a massive tantrum at the departure gate. He went on to smash the phones and the computer terminals behind the counter. Still mad, he ripped out the wires and kicked at the desk and chairs while the airline staff and airport security guards stood by and watched, making no attempt to restrain him.
While the behavior of these passengers should not be condoned, most of the time they do have cause for complaint. For example, passengers on a Hong Kong Airlines flight from Sanya to Hong Kong were made to sit in the plane on the tarmac for six hours while they waited for air traffic control to give them clearance to take off. It is understandable that everyone on that flight was miffed, to say the least.
But still, that does not justify the behavior of one elderly passenger who punched a young flight attendant and hurled abuse at her, nor of the many other passengers who cheered him on. This is the really sad part of this incident, that the man was praised by his fellow passengers for his cowardly act of violence against an innocent woman.
The authorities and airline companies seem to have lost all sense of justice when it comes to dealing with air rage. Last year, there were a number of cases involving groups of passengers staging protests on the runways because their flights were delayed. These then caused more delays as they prevented other planes from landing and taking off. The protesters only agreed to leave after the airlines involved proposed paying them "compensation".
But rewarding passengers for unruly acts that endanger the safety of others will only encourage others to commit copycat acts.
The government is trying to address the frequent flight delay problem by introducing, among other things, a measure that seeks to expedite the flow of flights at airports in eight major cities.
But while the effectiveness and practicality of such measures are being debated, airline experts are calling for tougher rules to deter acts of violence by passengers. The authorities should work together with airlines to make it clear to the public that flight delays or any other shortcomings in service provided by the airlines should no longer be an excuse for verbal or physical abuse of airline personnel.
What is more, airlines flying on mainland routes have the obligation to ensure the personal safety and well-being of their staff against random abuses by passengers for whatever reason. To do this, they can follow the example set by budget airline operator Spring Airlines, which refuses to carry any passenger who has a record of unruly behavior.
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