Why Do People Get So Crazy Once They Are On The Airplane?

In all my years as a flight attendant, the one question that always floats around my mind is, “Why do these people get so crazy on the airplane?”

Is it the recirculated air? The entire TSA process (which who could blame them)?Having their toothpaste and water bottles thrown into the trash at security like ticking time bombs?

What is it? Why the fuck do people turn into lunatics once they walk onto the airplane?

Even though this thought plays over and over in my brain like a Vagisil commercial on the OWN Network, a certain event a few nights ago had me thinking about it again while I sipped on my coffee during my last layover.

The other night I was working a flight from JFK to somewhere in California. You know — Somewhere, California. Don’t worry about the exact location, all you need to know is it’s expensive and nobody can afford to buy a house.

Exactly… that Somewhere.

Halfway through the flight I walked through the airplane collecting trash. No big deal, right? We do that multiple times — especially on a trans con flight. I started from the front of the airplane (I was working the back position) with my trash bag and a smile. The moment I walked up to the second row, I noticed the man in the window seat talking to the lady seated in the aisle. No big deal again, right?


The moment I took a step past the row, the gentleman lifted up his finger to me and said, “Excuse me… this little girl keeps kicking me and her mother isn’t doing anything about it.”

I stopped and looked down at all three of them. The two adults stared at each other like the other let out a nasty fart (Spoiler… it was ME!) and the little girl stood in her seat bouncing around. At that exact moment, I knew I did not want to get involved in this mess. If I’m being completely honest, it had CNN News coverage written all over it. 

I took a few steps back into the galley, got the attention of the lead flight attendant and smiled, “Can you handle this situation? Thanks.”  Then I walked up to the row and informed the two passengers that the lead flight attendant would manage the situation. But first I looked at the little girl and said, “You really should sit down. You need to have your seat belt on.” 

The mother looked straight through me, “She’s a little girl. She can’t help it.”

That’s when I walked away. Because at that point, I knew I wouldn’t be able to have a conversation with a woman who allows their child to bounce up and down in an airplane seat without any attempts at controlling their behavior. 

And I was tired. Not the best excuse, but at least I’m being honest.

After everything was said and done, the lady and her daughter switched seats with two other passengers on the other side of their row. There were some harsh statements thrown around (the guy basically called her a bad mother and she basically called him an asshole) but the situation was resolved quick and without incident.

But of course, everyone within hear shot had stopped what they were doing in anticipation of pulling out their cell phones for their 15 minutes of fame. Thankfully, not on our flight.

When the lead flight attendant came back to my galley he laughed, “Thanks Joe. Leaving me to deal with that.”

I laughed right back, “I knew you’d be able to handle it much better than me. You’re a champ. You made everyone happy.”

The next morning, I retold the story at home and asked my husband the question, “What’s wrong with these passengers? Why can’t they be nice to each other?”

But let’s be honest, it’s not even about being nice, airline passengers can’t even be civil with one another. Or to the gate agents. Or flight attendants. Look at the recent events that took place on: Southwest, ANA Airlines, and American Airlines.

People are insane.

As I talked about this, I had a little breakthrough. One of those Oprah moments. Not a Weight Watchers moment… but an “Aha” moment. 

Have people lost the ability to interact with each other in person? Has social media ruined our ability to act decent towards each other in a setting that doesn’t involve being on social media? 

Yes and yes. At least that’s what I believe. We spend countless hours staring at our cell phones, iPads, and computers while chatting and talking on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

Don’t even get me started with that marriage destroyer called Pinterest.  

We get along better with our cell phones than we do with each other. We are entitled. We tell ourselves we are the most important person in the world. But actually, the person seated next to us on the airplane, or standing in line at the grocery store, is just as special as we are.

If our egos were car tires, we’d need a balance and rotation. That’s how messed up we are. Running around wobbly as fuck while trying to get on airplanes without being able to act like decent human beings. 


I can’t imagine how to make this world a better place. I won’t even try. But I do often wonder, how can we make it a better world at 37,000 feet?

The answer is simple and something we all know. Something that was hopefully instilled in us by our parents. Be nice. Yes, I told you it was simple. Treat each other as you would like to be treated. What ever happened to that theory? I think it died with my grandmother. Treat people how you’d like to be treated. Because, I’m gonna tell you — the way most passengers treat each other, it would seem the only karma they want is a quick kick to the genitals. 

Here’s another no-brainer — stop demanding shit from the flight attendant. Ask. Smile at your flight attendant when you walk on the airplane. Smile at your seatmate who you’ll be elbow to elbow with for six hours. Don’t yell at the person sitting next to you. Speak to them calmly and respectfully. Don’t tell someone you question their parenting skills. It’s none of your business. Don’t call people names. That’s what junior high school and internet trolls do. Don’t swing your fist like you are at your local bar. Save that for your friend who’s boning your wife… and please do it when you get off the airplane. I could go on and on until 2018 with ways you should be nice to the person sitting next to you — or behind you — on the airplane.

When I see passengers on the airplane, they barely want to look at the person next to them. They yell and scream about THEIR overhead bin space. This person is in MY space. That bag is in MY space.  I need this… and I need that. They have no regard for anyone but themselves.

It makes me wonder if they act like this at home. Do they go crazy at the grocery store? What about standing in line at the post office?

What is it about walking onto an airplane that makes passengers go crazy?

It’s a question with no definitive answer.  


And PS… Don’t do this!