Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Airlines Overcharge

While swatting a child on the back side a couple of times with an open hand might be evidence of poor parenting skills, I would have thought such behavior would not rise to the level of a felony. Apparently it can, if it is done on an airplane, as one mother learned. Any disruptive behavior during flight allows the flight crew to invoke the Patriot Act.

[Tamera Jo] Freeman is one of at least 200 people on flights who have been convicted under the amended law. In most of the cases, there was no evidence that the passengers had attempted to hijack the airplane or physically attack any of the flight crew. Many have simply involved raised voices, foul language and drunken behavior.

In the past, such unruly passengers have been isolated from other passengers, sobered up, charged with an infraction, and fined. But then came 9/11, and, as we all know, "9/11 changed everything".

...Within two months of the attacks, Congress passed the Patriot Act, a sweeping attempt to improve the nation's defenses against international terrorism. It included broad new powers for law enforcement in such areas as electronic surveillance, money laundering and search warrants.

Included were two key provisions on airline security. The first defined disruptive behavior as a terrorist act, reflecting the seismic shift in airline security.

The second broadened the existing criminal law so that any attempt or conspiracy to interfere with a flight crew became a felony -- a change that allowed flight personnel to act against suspicious passengers even if they hadn't begun an actual assault.

The law gave flight personnel enormous latitude in determining what precisely posed a potential threat or disruption, and judging by some cases, there is no clear standard.
[Emphasis added]

Judging by the cases described in this Los Angeles Times article, there also has been inadequate training of flight personnel on how to deal with angry or drunk or frightened or mentally ill passengers. Given the crowded flights and fewer flight attendants per flight, the shift to the much easier albeit heavier handed device of slamming a felony down on the unruly passenger was inevitable.

As a result, Tamera Jo Freeman has spent time in jail, lost custody of her children, and been forbidden to fly, even to hearings in which her children's current foster parents are trying to legally adopt them.

I thought overbooking was bad, but this kind of overcharging is horrendous.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got the impression that it less her spanking than her swearing at flight staff.

And to lose custody over it, simply stupid.

Still, as you mentioned, it shows a lack of training of flight staff to deal with these situations-either the spanking, or the unruliness.

Buckeye ...

5:28 AM  

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