07 May 2017

Airline Incidents and the Militarization of Air Travel

You probably remember that about a month ago, United Airlines violently ejected a 69 year old physician, knocking two front teeth and breaking his nose in the process. He was a paying customer with a valid boarding pass.

At first, their CEO issued a statement praising the crew for adhering to corporate policies and described the passenger as disruptive and belligerent.

But when a video emerged with the bloodied face of an elderly men being carried by four security personnel United realized that they had a problem.

Their next move was to start a negative PR campaign about the victim. Several online sites dredged up his past.

When that backfired on social media, the CEO Oscar Munoz, who makes $20 million a year ($6.7 salary and $14 bonus) apologized only after it became known that his actions made United lose a cool billion dollars of its market value in one day.

The process shows how common these occurrences are and how the airlines expect us to behave. And how arrogant they have become.

If it wasn't the video of Dr. Dao being dragged out of the plane the media would still have been mum about how the traveling experience changed and little freedom we now have.

At the airport, they can grab your genitals, they can confiscate your baby milk, they can ask mastectomy patients to undergo invasive pat downs, they can search your laptop or smartphone without warrants and they can confiscate them with no recourse.

And if you dare to object or protest, heaven help you. Airports became military camps where strict discipline and hierarchy is the norm. They order, you obey, regardless of how unreasonable the request is.

It is not a bad apples situation as they claim but a very common and constantly growing problem because it stems from a self-sustaining dynamic.

Remember the Stanford Prison Experiment? They placed some students in charge of others and within days, the guards began to attribute criminal motives to the inmates and they felt OK subjecting them to violence and psychological torture. For their part, the bulk of the prisoners did not object and complied with increasingly harsher behavior of the guards.

This is what is happening in air travel.

One of the best illustration of the new rules was provided by a video that emerged on 21 April. An American Airlines male flight attendant violently yanked a baby stroller from a woman travelling with two toddlers and hit her with it in the process, narrowly missing one of the babies.

He took the stroller off the plane with no explanation.

When the clip starts we see the woman sobbing uncontrollably as she is not sure what happened. The pilot is looking at her indifferently, there is a female flight attendant who is saying something to the mother and her body language is that of a school principal.

Other passengers are cowed and they behave like primates avoiding eye contact with the alpha male. A guy emerges from the bathroom looking annoyed about the disruption but not looking in the direction of the incident.
A male passenger can then be seeing standing up from his seat and asking, “What’s the guy’s name that did that with the stroller? I want to know the guy’s name that did that with the stroller.”

He then asked if the man was an American Airlines employee before he sat down again.

Some time later, the attendant could be seen coming back on the plane and being confronted by the passenger who stood up.

“Hey bud, hey bud – you do that to me and I’ll knock you flat,” he said, pointing at the attendant. 
“You stay out of this,” the attendant responded, pointing back at the passenger.

The passenger then stepped out of his seat once again and approached the attendant, confronting him directly.

“Hit me – come on – hit me,” the attendant could be heard saying on the video.

“You don’t know what the story is,” the attendant said later.

“I don’t care what the story is, you almost hurt a baby,” the passenger responded.
The passenger adds that the whole incident is being taped.

This is clever on his part, because without that video, the passenger would have been escorted off the plane and arrested by the airport authorities.

If you think this is a one off, another recent incident showed how militaristic airport personnel and airline attendants have become.

On 23 April, Delta Airline ejected a family off a red-eye flight from Maui to Los Angeles to make room for a standby passenger from an overbooked flight and threatened them with jail time if they didn't comply.
During the exchange, an employee tells father Brian Schear that, according to Federal Aviation Authority regulations, his 2-year-old “cannot sit in the car seat . . . He has to sit in your arms the whole time.” Not only does this statement contradict all FAA policy, but Delta’s own website encourages customers to buy separate seats for young children and to use child-safety restraint systems, car seats included. (...)
Later in the video, a crew member tells Schear that his family has indeed been ejected from the plane for failure to comply. “That will be a federal offense and you and your wife will be in jail and your kids will be in foster care.”
The video clip of the incident went viral and then promptly removed from Youtube but you can see it here.

There is more.
Despite Mr Schear later relenting and agreeing to hold the child, the crew member tells him the family was being removed from the plane because "it's come too far".
When he responds that there is nowhere for his family, including two infants, to go and no more flights, the crew member can be heard saying: "You guys are on your own."
Think about it for a second.

You were asked to pay for a seat for your baby, you did it. Once seated, you were asked to hold that baby for an entire night on your lap so that the seat you paid for could be given to another passenger.

You object, they threaten you with jail and taking away your kids.

You relent and agree to hold that baby for long hours and they tell you that it is too late and they drop you off in the middle of an empty airport with no flight in sight.

You have no rights when you travel anymore.

And the airline will only say sorry or compensate you if there is a video of the incident.

Case in point. Around the same time, EasyJet forced a couple off a flight in the UK. Even though the next flight was four days later and they were entitled to compensation, EasyJet shrugged it off.

No video, no admission of guilt because this happens all the time.

This couple was lucky because of the timing of the incident and the media picked up their story forcing EasyJet to apologize.

I doubt that any compensation was offered.

This shows how bad things are:
The Department of Homeland Security is investigating allegations that U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency officers at Newark Airport have been subjected to sexually abusive hazing by veteran officers, including the duct-taping of victims to a "rape table."

"I’m afraid for my life, my safety," CBP officer Diana Cifuentes told the NBC 4 New York I-Team in an exclusive interview about the abuse she says she suffered at the hands of fellow officers. "This is terrorizing. How is it that officers believe they’re free to do whatever they want to do?"
Good question. Indeed, how is that they believe they are free to do whatever they want to do?

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