Let’s face it flying can be very stressful, particularly, where the journey is international and is not going as planned.
It doesn’t help that there are some travel-related circumstances that are naturally on the edgy side of things.
It always starts by getting to the airport late because of a delayed taxi, heavy traffic, or in many cases, carelessness with time management. The stress of the first security check is child’s play compared with what lies ahead.
Take check-in for example. Just when you think you have done your best to comply with the ever-changing baggage rules, they always manage to spring one on you right there at the counter.
Having to leave some items behind or repackage in the airport terminal makes for a good start to some passengers getting irritable.
Excess baggage charges, when announced to a passenger, especially where they did not anticipate it, get the clock ticking towards a meltdown. It doesn’t help that the check-in staff are always dishing out a “take it or leave it” attitude.
As soon as the baggage experience is completed and you’ve barely made it before check-in cut off, you will usually run into the waiting arms of an immigration official whose mood and service levels are a mixed basket. There are no standard expectations here.
Depending on the country of departure, these officials will sometimes act like they are cross-examining a witness in a criminal case. Granted, there are courteous ones among them but there are also rotten ones.
It’s difficult to answer migration questions consistently when the last boarding call for your flight is being made. It doesn’t help if at that moment, the official is delaying you as a way of soliciting.
Airports vary in size. Hence, the mad dash from the migration desk to the boarding gate can be anywhere between a few metres and three to five kilometres, even more.
At the final security check before boarding and as if to deepen the conspiracy and against the passenger, his water bottle, some personal effects including devices that seem to have lithium batteries are confiscated.
By the time such a passenger makes it on board — with the doors just closing behind them — they are in a very touchy state. A volcano waiting to blow its top is no match. You can always tell as they rush down the aisle while looking for their seat, that it would take a little less than a shove to get them erupting.
So, imagine when such a passenger finds their seat occupies by another passenger who won’t move and pretends to be asleep or simply points them further down the aisle to look for a vacant seat.
Envision the outburst and ensuing altercation when the late-to-board passenger emptied the overhead bin directly above his seat and put his own bags in, leaving the other bags in the aisle.
“Air rage” is a reality whether between passengers or with a crew member. In such cases, pilots are often left with no choice but to engage emergency landing procedures and even make unscheduled stops if the brawl on board is a threat to flight safety.
In the past eight years, there have been over 50,000 cases of violence aboard flights reported by airlines around the world through IATA. Of these occurrences, nearly 20 per cent required police intervention.
Whether against flight crew or other passengers, violence aboard flights is disruptive and a threat to passenger comfort and the safety of the flight in general.
While the Tokyo Convention enacted in 1963 governs offense and other acts that occur on aircrafts in-flight, there existed many loopholes and such offense often remained unpunished.
In the 12 months preceding 2014 over 40 per cent of airlines had diverted a flight due to an unruly passenger. Such is the gravity of the violence exhibited aboard by passengers.
The Montreal Protocol of 2014 which supersedes the original Tokyo Convention, extends the jurisdiction over offences committed aboard a flight to the destination country of the flight in addition to the country of aircraft registration.
Once ratified by at least 22 countries, this protocol gives governments the legal powers to ensure unruly passengers face the consequences of their actions.
Surprisingly, the first country to ratify this protocol was Congo. Passengers need to know that stress of travel if managed better greatly reduces the factors that can contribute to onboard violence.
This post was earlier published in The East African Magazine May 20, 2017 Plan ahead to reduce stress when flying.