Alternative Dispute Resolution

Air Travel Spurs Fights, Suits, No-Fly List

For a few years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, air travelers were unusually polite. But no more.

Passengers—particularly business travelers who aren’t used to taking no for an answer—are more aggressive and behaving worse than any time in recent memory, reports the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.). Physical altercations (at least one last month involved a Congressman who apparently was having trouble retrieving his checked bag) and resultant arrests are commonplace. However, a doctor reportedly was arrested in July for a relatively unique effort to force an airline to see things his way—having just missed his flight, he allegedly called in a bomb threat to get the plane back to the airport.

On their side, passengers say airlines often don’t display basic courtesy either. The last straw for Greg Hansen, the president of a marketing and research company in Portland, Ore., was a three-hour departure delay on May 14 about which the airline carrier didn’t alert him, even though it knew of the problem two hours beforehand.

A longtime customer of the airline, Hansen eventually sent its CEO an invoice demanding $100,000 for “lost productivity, missed business meetings and personal activities, lack of on-time arrival, failure to deliver the promise, stress, and related damages” over the past three years, the newspaper reports. In response it offered him a $300 travel voucher, then later upped the ante to two $300 travel vouchers.

Part of what may be aggravating fliers is a sense that the deck is stacked against them. In addition to having unruly passengers arrested, airlines can also sue them for damages. Plus, perhaps most daunting of all, the carriers “also have a final, secret weapon,” the article states. It is “their own ‘no fly’ lists of customers they won’t transport under any circumstances.”

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