On Boxing Day, December 26th, Won’t Run and I were on flight UA1734 from EWR-SAN, when a mother-daughter cat fight nearly broke out on our flight!
Won’t Run and I were quietly sitting in seats 30D-F. I was reading People Magazine (a recent Klout perk) and Won’t Run was engulfed in his Sudoku game.
I heard bickering from the two women in seats 30A and B, with momentary outbursts of yips and yaps and screams and tears and turns and shuffles. It got worse. Arms and elbows started flailing. I didn’t know what the problem was, but the situation was becoming sufficiently aggressive that I was concerned. I reached up and hit the Call button.
A flight attendant came right over. I quietly told her of the fighting. She looked over, assessed the situation and walked to the back of the aircraft. Another flight attendant approached the two women. He calmly but assertively asked if they were okay or needed any help. They said that they were okay. The flight attendant then asked if they were going to be okay (translation: are you done fighting?). They again said yes.
I looked over at the women. They were no longer fighting or even talking. It seemed to me that they had taken on a forced sense of silence.
A few minutes later, the flight attendant tapped me on the shoulder and motioned for me to follow him to the galley. The two flight attendants were writing up a report, per protocol, and asked me, as an innocent bystander, what I had seen. I told them. They thanked me and offered me a complimentary drink (who am I to say no to that?).
A few minutes later, I saw the mom being moved to a new seat. Although I’m not sure, it seemed to me that she had requested the transfer. (I later found out that she had been moved per protocol or guidelines).
I glanced over at 30A. I saw the daughter (probably in her early 20-s) sitting alone listening to music. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. I hoped that all of this was just a family spat and nothing worse.
About an hour later, the flight attendant again spoke to me. He told me that, per post-9/11 requirements, our flight came dangerously close to an incident requiring diversion to the nearest airport so authorities could come on board, investigate the matter and even possibly remove the fighting passengers. He said that, had I not hit the Call button when I did, it was likely that the situation would have escalated to the point where diversion would have been mandated.
It truly hadn’t crossed my mind that this situation I had witnessed might require an emergency landing – and that my reporting of it helped abort the need for such drastic measures! I’m rather flabbergasted!
Later on, I was further told that the airline wanted to detain the two passengers upon landing, but the captain had convinced the airline that this was a family squabble that had subsided.
Prior to landing, the flight attendant sat down next to the daughter and spoke to her for a few minutes. I don’t know what they discussed, but I’m now wondering if she is perhaps younger than I first thought.
I believe that the handling of the matter by the flight attendants was swift, thoughtful and proper. They should be commended! So, Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause! And yes, my friends, there are some good United Airlines flight attendants!
This brings me to this question: Are the rules requiring emergency diversion of flights for fights fair and appropriate? I did some research and found some other reports of flight diversions here:
1. Jet Blue flight diverted to Raleigh-Durham after a fight breaks out http://www.cnn.com/2008/TRAVEL/09/06/flight.diverted/
2. British Airways flight diverted to Orlando after drunken fight http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2306358/Sean-Jude-Kelly-British-Airways-flight-Cancun-diverted-Orlando-Briton-picks-fight-plane.html
3. Southwest Flight diverted to New Orleans after fight http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/08/23/southwest-airlines-flight-diverted-after-passenger-fight/
4. United flight diverted to Chicago after passenger protested that in-flight movie was inappropriate for children http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/movie-complaint-leads-flight-diversion/story?id=18887461
See this Huffington Post article: Flight Diversions, the Strangest Causes for Unexpected Landings. See also this CBC/Canada post entitled Unruly Passengers Can Face Hefty Bills for Flight Diversions.
What do you think? Have you been on flights that were diverted or nearly-diverted?