Adventure Guide 2000: Go Ahead, Make My Flight


Overbooked flights.

Interminable check-in lines. Luggage restrictions. Seats sized for Herve Villechaize. Is it any wonder that air rage-or what the FAA calls "passenger interference with crew"-is on the rise? In the interest of keeping the skies friendly, we offer this primer on air rage, with scenarios and "get mad" reactions based loosely on actual incidents, as well as our constructive "get even" alternatives.

scenario: Your flight to Denver has been cancelled by thunderstorms in Dallas that delayed the inbound plane.
get mad: You wait half an hour in line, and when you get to the counter, you find that the available seats on the next flight have already been doled out. You're hosed. So you make like Stone Cold Steve Austin and body slam the counter attendant. He is taken to the hospital; you are charged with felony assault and spend the weekend in jail instead of Vail.
get even: See that growing line at the service desk? Walk past it and head to a pay phone. An off-site airline reservationist can probably get you on another flight faster than if you waited in line. So you'll likely get one of the few coveted seats on the next flight out of Dodge.

scenario: Because your flight was half an hour late, you arrived at the gate for your connecting flight with only eight minutes to spare. You find that the flight is now full. The attendant tells you that-surprise!-you forfeited your reservation 10 minutes before departure time.
get mad: You argue with the attendant, and to bolster your point, you pull down your pants and defecate on the counter. Editor's note: This stuff really happens; we couldn't make it up. You are arrested and pay a $50,000 fine in lieu of prison time.
get even: Ask the attendant nicely to put your name on the volunteered-to-bump list. You still don't get on the flight, but you do get a $300 travel certificate and a seat on the next flight.

scenario: Your flight is cancelled because of a mechanical problem, leaving you with a four-hour layover. When you ask the attendant to rebook you on another flight that leaves only an hour later, he says "I'm sorry, I only have first class seats left."
get mad: Taking a page from the tactics of British rock star Ian Brown, you leap over the counter and threaten to break both the attendant's hands. Richard Branson proposes your name go on the international aviation blacklist, preventing you from flying on any airline or attempting to circumnavigate the globe in a hot-air balloon.
get even: Calmly invoke Rule 240. Each airline has to file its own set of rules with the FAA and then abide by them. You can find a copy online at, cross-referenced by airline and rule. In the case of a cancellation, most airlines will offer you an alternate flight, but if there's a flight leaving earlier, you have the right to be on it, regardless of whether this entails an upgrade.

scenario: The flight attendant tells you that one of the entrées is stuffed chicken. You ask her what it's stuffed with, and she screams, "It's stuffed with...stuffing!"
get mad: You respond by attacking her with a broken vodka bottle. You are subdued, strapped into your seat, and a doctor on board injects you with a tranquilizer. Unfortunately, the tranquilizer coupled with the alcohol and drugs already in your system triggers an overdose, and you die before the plane lands.
get even: If you really want to cause trouble, simply take names. Most flight attendants wear name tags, and they are required to carry ID. Then try these magic words: "May I speak to your supervisor?" If you're still not satisfied, make a written complaint, being as specific as possible: who you talked to, what they did (or didn't do), and how you were inconvenienced. Make sure your complaint goes all the way to the top-to a muckety-muck at the airline's corporate offfices. Check for a list of addresses. At least you'll get an apology and possibly some hush money in the form of flight vouchers or VIP-lounge passes.

scenario: You're waiting to go to the bathroom, and a surly flight attendant orders you back to your seat.
get mad: Claim that you are the Messiah and walk up and down the aisle, offering your fellow passengers eternal salvation and fondling a flight attendant en route. Biting, kicking, and cursing, you are subdued by four passengers and tied to your seat. Facing up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, you go for the insanity defense.
get even: Consider just saying, "Pardon me, ma'am," and returning quietly to your seat. Call it "air-anoia," but in the wake of these highly publicized air-rage incidents, more and more passengers are being removed from planes for even minor disagreements. You may be in the right, but that's cold comfort when you're a thousand miles away from the lifts on a powder morning.