When Airplane Gadget Rules Are Eased, Will We Start Seeing More Recordings of Crew Behavior?

More importantly, will these recordings improve airline employee behavior?


"Somebody sneezed too loudly. Back to the gate!"
Credit: InSapphoWeTrust / / CC BY-SA

It's no secret that customers hate how airlines treat them. According to the latest ratings by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, airlines rank lower than post offices. The only companies customers hate more are cable/satellite television and Internet providers.

Case in point: US Airways kicked a blind man off a flight from Philadelphia to Long Island Wednesday because he couldn't stow his service dog to their satisfaction while the plane was still stuck on the tarmac. Here's how Long Island Newsday described the incident:

US Airways spokeswoman Liz Landau said [Albert] Rizzi was removed — and the flight later canceled — after he became "verbally abusive" with the unnamed attendant.

"Mr. Rizzi became disruptive and refused to comply with crew member instructions when the flight attendant asked him to secure his service dog at his feet," the airline said in a statement. "As a result of his disruptive behavior, the crew returned to the gate and removed Mr. Rizzi and his service dog from the flight."

But Rizzi said his last-row seat aboard the de Havilland Dash-8 turboprop plane had no under-seat area, and his request to move to an open seat was ignored.

He said his dog, Doxy, was first placed under the seat of a nearby passenger, but when Flight 4384 experienced a departure delay of more than 1 1/2 hours, the dog wandered out to the aisle — and lay on the floor with his head under Rizzi's legs.

Rizzi said the attendant told him curtly about 9:45 p.m. that the dog needed to be "stowed."

Rizzi received support from several passengers against the attendant. The crew responded by returning the plane to the gate and kicking all of them off to take a bus instead.

We're all familiar with airline safety theater – the pretense that when the plane is obviously stuck on the tarmac for lengthy delays everybody is supposed to stay seated with everything stowed as though the plane was going to leap up into the air suddenly and begin its flight. The dog didn't need to be "stowed" while the plane was just sitting any more than anybody else needed to be sitting with their seat belts fastened, seat backs up and all gadgets turned off.

Now that the FAA is going to ease rules on gadget use on flights, will we start seeing passenger-recorded videos of these incidents the way people record police? And if so, what impact will it have on the way airlines treat customers? As Ron Bailey noted, when Rialto, Calif., required police officers to wear cameras, complaints dropped 88 percent and use of force dropped 60 percent.

If imperious behavior by flight crew starts getting called out with video footage, maybe the public response will force better behavior. On the flip side, maybe Rizzi and his dog were being disruptive jerks after all, and if so, footage would vindicate their treatment.