As parts of the world slowly hobble out of the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented number of vaccinated travelers are taking to the skies, and many of them are being total pricks about it.
In fact, in-flight violence involving unruly passengers and flight staff have become so common in 2021 that Southwest and American Airlines both recently suspended their alcohol service for the foreseeable future. Since January 1, the Federal Aviation Administration received 2,500 reports of aggressive behavior from rowdy passengers, 1,900 of which stemmed from flight attendants asking passengers to keep their masks on. Needless to say, there are some insane people catching flights these days.
In January, a drunken Brit named Daniel Hendry was asked by Samuel Prioetti to please put on a mask. Hendry, who had consumed three-quarters of a bottle of his own vodka, mocked the Ryanair flight attendant, calling him a "fascist" for making such a request. "Fuck off! I'm going to punch you! Smash your head in!" he yelled out before headbutting Prioetti and then attempting to hug a female attendant. The incident escalated so intensely that the pilot increased the speed of the plane, landing in Manchester 25 minutes early so Hendry could be arrested.
A similar event unfolded on a JetBlue flight out of New York back in December as well, with a drunken passenger blatantly drinking from his own bottle with no mask on. Flight attendants ask that he stop drinking and put a face mask on, both requests he vehemently denied. He then became so disruptive that the plane had to circle back to JFK and make an emergency landing.
While these intoxicated antics were widespread this year, a few of the encounters flight attendants have had to deal with have been legitimately insane. An unhinged man on a Delta flight from LA to Nashville tried to open the cockpit door, with flight staff having to pin the man down on the ground and physically restrain him. One attendant even got punched in the face.
Another passenger threatened to blow up a plane after it got delayed on the runway.
Some of the batshit incidents that happened this year didn't even occur between staff and passengers. A Southwest Airlines flight to Fort Lauderdale was forced to make an emergency landing after a woman attacked the man she was traveling with, smashing a cell phone on his head, which then caught fire and exploded. Two men also recently had to be escorted off a plane after they got into a fistfight over who got to use the armrest.
So why are people being such dicks? It's a combination of factors. Air travel has increased 499% since March 2020 as a result of the pandemic; so naturally, that's just going to bring a lot of toxic individuals into the mix.
With that said, masks have also become so politicized, meaning many people are confrontational when asked by airline staff to wear a mask. But the sad truth is that it's only just started.
"We have just never seen anything like this," Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants said in a meeting with federal aviation officials. "We've never seen it so bad."
That's basically what 2020 said. Then 2021 came along and said, "Buckle up. Brace for turbulence."