Hank Investigates: Cabin Pressure - 7News Boston WHDH-TV

Hank Investigates: Cabin Pressure

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This flight attendant loves his job, but he knows there are dangers on his flights passengers may not expect, the danger? Other passengers.

Flight Attendant

“To me personally, people have thrown their bags at me/or they have thrown their trays at me the words they say to us, you can't repeat.”

You heard what happened with flight attendant Steve Slater. He got fed up with a passenger, made an expletive-laden PA announcement, and then made a headline grabbing exit.

But we obtained these internal complaints from flight attendants across the country, collected on this NASA database, revealing thousands of passenger problems. They call them: "rude" "unruly" "drunk" "vulgar" "disobedient" "obscene" "threatening" and "dangerous." Beleaguered flight attendants know--out of control passengers can put flights at risk.

Flight Attendant

"In closed doors like that, it only takes one passenger to disrupt the entire flight and make everyone miserable."

We found all these firsthand accounts all on board aircrafts in flight: "Flight attendant was choked by the passenger", "passenger had grabbed him by the throat." One passenger, "attacking cabin attendants" another threatening to "break her neck." Passengers "out of control."

NASA officials delete specific details so we can’t know which airline or which flight. But they say they get at least one complaint about passengers every day last year, the most ever. And this year, complaints about passengers are on track to be even higher.

Flight Attendant

"I think everyone has to be aware that both parties are on edge. It doesn’t surprise me that complaints are on the rise."

Post-9-11 stress, increased security, flight delays, crowded planes whatever the reason. An FAA study shows the same disturbing trend "rude passengers" by far the most common complaint: Attendants report: "passenger shouting," "throwing water", "throwing an empty can," "yelling," "very disruptive," "verbally abusive." One screamed as she was taken off a flight: "I hope your plane crashes".

Jacob Easter, flight attendant and Boston President Association of Flight Attendants

“It’s sad, it’s sad that the industry has turned into this.”

Interfering with a flight attendant is a federal offense. And with hundreds of passengers and just a few flight attendants, they warn: Dangerous in flight behavior may get a dramatic response.

Reports show flights attendants had to "tie (one passenger’s) legs"

passengers "put in handcuffs" and "leg cuffed" in one case they "tied (a passenger’s) hands with neckties" then "tied his ankles, too."

Flight Attendant

"We have to very quickly go into mode of protecting the other passengers from physical harm."

Passengers who interfere with a flight attendant could end up turned over to police and investigated by the FAA and TSA, the result: serious criminal charges, huge fines and even jail time. In the newsroom, I’m Hank Phillippi Ryan.

(Copyright (c) 2010 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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