Former flight attendant Susan Howland has been on disability for three years following an attack by a passenger on a flight she was working. Now she says, "I don't know if I'll ever be able to fly as a flight attendant again."
The drunken passenger left Howland badly bruised, with a broken pelvis and post-traumatic stress. In the attack, "he assaulted me by pushing me against a back wall of the airplane," she says. "He locked eyes with me and repeatedly kicked me in the pelvis."
Just last week, a frustrated passenger at Continental Airlines' Newark hub allegedly hurled a gate agent onto the floor, breaking his neck. The passenger, John Davis, has been charged with assault, but he says it was the gate agent who attacked him.
According to airline industry representative Carol Hallett, "we must have zero tolerance to unruly passengers. It is dangerous for every single passenger when one person acts up."
But others blame the airlines for air rage: the long lines, frustrating delays, bigger planes with smaller seats and no-frills service.
In an effort to guarantee passengers more efficient service, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is co-sponsoring the Airline Passenger Fairness Act. He feels "the lousy service they are getting from airlines is contributing to some of this inexcusable and violent conduct."
The legislation was pre-empted last month when the airlines adopted a milder plan of their own to appease passengers. Whether that will be enough to calm angry tempers is still up in the air.