The friendly skies are starting to sound downright dangerous. In March alone, stories of rape, fistfights and dead beloved pets have dominated national headlines. And it seems no airline is immune. United, Southwest, American and Alaska Airlines are just a few of the carriers scrambling to explain the behavior of crew members. And tales of passengers gone wild can often be even more harrowing.
“Both pets and humans have been mistreated by airlines for years. With the advent of smartphones and more and more passengers aware of taking them out and hitting record, there’s been a microscope on airlines and how these incidents are handled. Especially following the Dr. Dao incident last year, passengers are better equipped to document anything that happens when traveling - especially on United,” Brian Kelly, CEO and founder of The Points Guy told Fox News.
In a recent survey of airplane crew members, 67 percent of respondents said they have witnessed passengers behaving aggressively or violently toward each other, and 10 percent have experienced firsthand passenger-initiated violence.
But it's not just the flyers acting out. Things have gotten so bad with their employees, United just rolled out a compassion training program aimed at teaching employees how to be caring, safe, dependable and efficient. This new system will require around 30,000 customer-facing crew members to attend a four-hour training session to ensure all safety standards are met “with a smile.”
Despite recent headlines, however, complaints against the airline were down in 2017 from 2016. According to the Department of Transportation, only 2,030 complaints were made, compared to 2,277 the previous year.
But you wouldn't know that from the headlines over the past few weeks. Here is a quick summary.
A mix-up with United Airlines resulted in a family’s dog being sent to Japan instead of Kansas. Irgo the German shepherd ended up in the foreign country when his owner, Kara Swindle, was moving with her family and pet from Oregon to Kansas. Swindle was traveling to Wichita with her two small children on one flight and 10-year-old Irgo was being flown out separately the same day. Since Irgo is a large breed, he had to be transported by kennel in the cargo hold of the plane. When Swindle went to pick up her dog from the cargo facility, she discovered Irgo was missing and there was a Great Dane waiting, instead. United confirmed the mix-up took place in Denver during a layover and the two pets were sent to the wrong destinations. A day later, Irgo was put on a private charter to be returned home to Kansas.
A man and his young daughter got kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight after the child allegedly wouldn’t sit in her own seat. According to a witness, who recorded a viral video of the incident, the little girl was afraid and acting upset in preparation for takeoff. When the father asked for a minute to deal with his daughter, estimated to be around two years old, the attendant reportedly walked away and called for someone to remove them from the flight. Southwest confirmed the family was removed from the flight after the “conversation escalated” between the passengers and crew. They were later booked on a different flight to their destination.
A black man is calling out United Airlines for racial bias after he says a white woman was offered a $1,000 voucher to remove her feet from the tray table. However, the airline says it was all a misunderstanding. Frederick Joseph was traveling from Austin, Texas to Newark, New Jersey when the passenger next to him took off her shoes and placed her feet on the tray table. When he asked her to remove them, she reportedly refused and told a flight attendant he was “disrupting her flight.” In order to pacify the customer, Joseph claims she was offered a $1,000 voucher. While he later explained the airline assured him the woman received no such compensation, he still said he doesn’t feel as though he was treated with equal respect because of his skin color. United denied Joseph’s accusations.
A French bulldog died on a United Airlines flight after the owners were forced by an attendant to store him in the overhead bin while traveling from Texas to New York. The pet’s owners paid $125 to have the dog on board and carried him on in a TSA-compliant carrier, which should’ve been kept underneath her seat in compliance with the airline’s pet policy. However, a flight attendant told the family he had to be put in the overhead bin. Despite the dog’s barking, the family was unable to check on their beloved pet until they reached their destination, at which time they discovered Kokito had died. Cause of death is assumed to be a lack of oxygen. United claimed full responsibility for the “tragic accident” and offered the family compensation.
An unruly passenger on a Lion Air flight was removed by aviation officials for wearing a life vest on board and instructing other passengers to do the same. Despite crew members removing the vest and stowing the item, the passenger took it out and put it back on six more times throughout the duration of the flight, claiming he “could see and feel” danger. The plane landed at its destination in Padang, Indonesia, but the passenger was apprehended and handed over to airport authorities.
A male American Airlines captain was arrested right before takeoff on a flight scheduled to fly out of São Paulo, Brazil after engaging in a heated argument with a female ground agent. The dispute was reportedly over the alignment of a jet bridge. When the agent accidentally stepped on the pilot’s foot, he became angry, pushing her and grabbing her by the neck, according to witnesses. An airport maintenance worker had to intervene and the flight was cancelled, leaving passengers stranded at the airport. The pilot was arrested and his passport withheld.
Two male passengers engaged in a violent fistfight onboard a Southwest Airlines flight in Dallas preparing to depart for Los Angeles. Witnesses claim one of the passengers was asked to leave the plane after arguing with a flight attendant regarding the overhead bins. When he refused, the pilot asked all passengers to exit the aircraft. Trying to prevent the situation, the other male passenger stepped in and asked the man to get off, sparking the altercation. According to the airline, both passengers involved were deplaned and turned over to local law enforcement.
A mother traveling alone with her 6-month-old son was removed from a Spirit Airlines flight to Boston because a flight attendant told crew the baby was sick. The woman said her baby had been spitting up before the flight, so she requested an aisle seat to make it easier to care for the child. That’s when the flight attendant told her she needed to exit the aircraft because her baby was too sick to fly. When she got back to the ticket counter, she discovered her luggage hadn’t been removed and was on its way to Boston without her. Spirit Airlines said the decision to remove the woman from the flight was based on the “safety of other passengers.”
A woman behaving bizarrely on a United Express flight from San Francisco to Boise, Idaho had an emotional outburst and tried to open the emergency exit door halfway through the trip. The agitated passenger was reportedly yelling things like “I want to die! Get me off this plane!” She then started screaming “I am God, I am God, I am God, I am God!” as she tried to open the cabin door. Other passengers restrained her with zip ties until the plane landed. A spokesperson for Skywest, which was operating the flight, said that once all passengers were safely deplaned, “the unruly customer was held for questioning by law enforcement,” said Layne Watson, a spokesperson from SkyWest.
A passenger was arrested after stripping naked and watching porn on his computer before attacking an airline crew member on a Malindo Air flight from Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, to Dhaka, Bangladesh. Authorities arrested the 20-year-old for his disturbing behavior. After a flight attendant requested he put his clothes back on, the man complied but then later began assaulting the female crew members. Unable to calm him down, with the help of passengers, the crew members retrained the man by tying his hands with a piece of cloth until he could be detained upon landing. The airline said the disruptive passenger was sent to jail by the Bangladesh authorities.
A Siberian Airlines passenger was arrested after punching and strangling men, women and children on a flight from St. Petersburg to Novosibirsk, Russia. The unruly man was pacing the aisles, spouting obscenities and disturbing other passengers, ignoring crew members’ requests to take his seat. He got physical with other people on board, grabbing one woman’s hair and calling another passenger’s baby a “slut.” Once the plane landed, police took the man to the airport holding cell, where he continued behaving aggressively, removing his shirt and banging on the walls.
Thirty-four passengers on a Nextjet flight were sent to the wrong city 600 miles away from their intended destination after a mix-up with airline scheduling. The passengers were previously informed their flight to Gothenburg, Sweden had been delayed due to weather. A few hours later, a plane arrived and the group of people boarded. However, instead of being flown to Gothenburg, which is on the west coast of Sweden, the passengers ended up in Luleå, in the far north of the country. The mix-up apparently occurred when the airline was forced to cancel the original flight, but failed to notify passengers waiting at the airport.
Fox News' Janine Puhak, Alexandra Deabler and Michael Bartiromo contributed to this report.