Flight crews and airlines have come under fire after a slew of recent videos depicting heated arguments,and a have gone viral.
But the Atlantic's Derek Thompson says flight attendants are set up to fail.
The senior editor joined "CBS This Morning: Saturday" to discuss his recent article about the seeming uptick of incidents involving airline employees and why conditions imposed by the airline are to blame -- not necessarily the crew.
He also discusses whether there's actually been an increase in confrontations or if we're just seeing more of them.
"I think the airlines are squeezing both the passengers and the employees. Sometimes, literally. The width of seats have declined by 5 to 10 percent since the 1980s. The pitch, which is essentially the officious term for leg room, has declined by three to five inches in the same time," Thompson said.
The employees are suffering, too. Thompson said, "While at the same time there are fewer crew members per plane. Sometimes they have cut their pensions, stagnated their pay."
The result, Thompson said, is a situation where "something is set to be lit."
When something does happen, passengers only have flight attendants to turn to.
"You can't scream at the person who wrote the contract of carriage, you can't scream at the executive board, you can only scream at those employees," Thompson said.
Despite what seems like a "weekly program of a viral video" of these incidents, Thompson said the numbers don't necessarily reflect that narrative.
"The Department of Transportation data tells an entirely different story. The number of cancellations is down, people bumped from flights is down, complaints are down. And so what appears to be happening is this: actual incidences of negative behavior, terrible behavior, their frequency is going down but their publicity is going up," Thompson said.
Yet,to address the complaints and some airlines, like United, have issued new guidelines for procedures like regarding passenger removal.
But Thompson says these incidences will continue.
"You have this situation where the employees have to follow the letter of a pretty Draconian law because they don't want to get fired, but sometimes when they follow the letter of that law, someone's going to hold up a camera on their phone and make them a viral sensation, make them the nemesis of the week," Thompson said.
What can airlines do?
Thompson said, "It's a really complicated situation that's not going to have an easy outcome."