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Last night we reported the breaking news of the story of another passenger/employee altercation, this time on an American Airlines plane from San Francisco to Dallas. Violence and viral videos seem to be all the rage this spring.
This comes on the heels of other well-publicized incidents in recent weeks. The dragging of an elderly physician from a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville (resulting in worldwide media attention and now a lawsuit and calls for Congressional hearings on airline practices). A misunderstanding over the nonrevenue passenger dress code resulting in two young women being denied boarding for wearing leggings. And system-wide meltdowns at Delta Airlines (yet again) stranding passengers for days.
Every time, a viral video seems to pop up somewhere – whether taken by a wannabe journalist or accidental Instagrammer – and soon copycats are spawned.
It did not take long after the first United incident (Leggings-gate) before it started. It began with the copycat attention-seeking posts on my own social media feeds. At first it was bored housewives trolling the court of pubic opinion on Facebook. “What do I do if the gate agent removes my family from our spring break flight for wearing shorts?!” Oh please. I do think the incident caused a great deal of confusion for some. I also believe it created an unnecessary platform for social babble for others. Nobody is body shaming anyone’s teenagers, ladies!
Then the week after the Dr. Dao United incident, small news stories cropped up furiously. Other United flyers each wanted to report their own tale of horrible mistreatment. This self-upgrading couple on United, for example, got their fifteen minutes of fame this week. And this former beauty queen is now suing over a past altercation on the airline. Suddenly the internet – or your local news outlet – was the place for the story of every bad flight, ever. Guess what? Most of us have had an overbooked flight. And a rude gate agent. We’ve encountered an aggressive passenger. But you do not need a national platform to tell your story.
But no one is listening.
All of this attention, none of it positive, is still attention.
And in a fame-hungry world where attention is the next best thing to a payoff, attention is the jackpot.
Are we setting off a domino effect with all of these viral videos? And have we hit the tipping point where passengers are so fed up that the violent reactions more easily fly? As we head into the summer travel season, should we continue to give these incidents our attention?
It could be a long hot travel season. It is a sad world indeed when you find yourself wishing for *only* mechanical delays and misplaced bags. They seem like a better alternative to violence and viral videos any day.