Air rage on the rise in India: How to stay calm - Hindustan Times

Air rage on the rise in India: How to stay calm

By Ismat Tahseen
Jan 18, 2024 06:07 PM IST

In the wake of recent events at airports and on flight, experts share tips on how to deal with this.

The recent incidents — where a passenger aboard a Delhi-Goa flight hit a pilot in reaction to a 13-hour delay; actor Radhika Apte and co-passengers lashed out at airline crew for being locked inside an aerobridge for hours with no access to food or water; and the one where fliers were not updated about delays — have put the spotlight on rising cases of air rage. With stress riding high in such situations, is it the right way to react? Could rage be avoided? Experts help us understand what will help ease the predicament.

There have been rising cases of air rage in India (Shutterstock)
There have been rising cases of air rage in India (Shutterstock)

What sparked off a furore

On Saturday, Bollywood actor Radhika Apte took to her Instagram account to share how she and other passengers, including babies, put into an aerobridge and made to wait for hours owing to a flight delay. “No water, no loo. Thanks for the fun ride,” she shared with sarcasm.

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A Delhi-based flier hit a pilot in the Goa-bound flight upon hearing of prolonged delay and (R) actor Radhika Apte and her co-passengers were locked inside an aerobridge for over three hours
A Delhi-based flier hit a pilot in the Goa-bound flight upon hearing of prolonged delay and (R) actor Radhika Apte and her co-passengers were locked inside an aerobridge for over three hours

Next day, South Delhi resident Sahil Kataria, who was aboard a Delhi-Goa IndiGo flight, hit out at the co-pilot who was making the announcement of the flight delay. Kataria was flying to Goa with his wife for his honeymoon and the flight which was to take off at 7.40 am, finally did so at 6.30 pm, leaving him angry. While a case was registered against him and he was granted bail, Russian actress Evgenia Belskaia who recorded the viral video of the assault has blamed the airline for instigating him to do so. She posted: “My team was waiting 10 hours for their flight then one guy got fed up and after this they had to wait 3 more hours! Police took the guy and they had to change pilot also! Crazy really!” Her video message added: It’s wrong to hit the pilot, but why is he blaming the passengers? Everyone was nervous and instead of supporting them you made it worse.”

Actor Ranvir Shorey narrated the harrowing 10-hour delay he faced with IndiGo airlines, saying they had “been fed lies” and that he will file complaint for trauma”. All the incidences have gone viral, prompting serval others sharing their own frustrating air travel experiences...

No food, air hostesses being rude and misinformation
Other frequent flyers share their experiences Joel John of Rainmaker Wedding Planners affirms that stress can ride high on a flight due to delays. “I’ve seen people asked to wait for hours on a flight during their destination wedding. It became a huge ordeal as toilets are few and smaller and it was inconvenient for senior citizens,” he says.

Unaez Quraishi, sales head at a tech company, who has been through the ordeal of a long flight delay, points a way out. He says, “In New York, when I was flying on a low-cost airline to Las Vegas, the flight was first delayed two hours after which we were made to just wait for four hours on the plane. But here, the airline did a smart thing. They served people food - starting with peanuts, then juice and then handed out earphones to everyone so they could watch a movie and not complain. Indigo should have also placated the passengers by serving them something. It takes away public attention from the delay at hand, plus it’s also humane.” He adds, “There are so many trigger points that can affect people. On a few occasions, I have seen air hostesses being rude to flyers and on others, passengers are misinformed or not appraised of the situation. I have also seen the pilot blame the passengers. We must remember that there are people who are claustrophobic on a flight and some that are flying for the first time. You have to take their psychology into consideration. There needs to be a system to help disgruntled passengers. Fog delays are not new, plus why was only one runway operational in Delhi?”

‘We are not teaching the soft skills that are required to calm people down’ Dr Varkha Chulani, clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and enablement expert, sounds the alarm on how this may be just the tip of the iceberg. Referring to the #slapgate incident, she shares, “In a video, by a fellow flyer explained that the pilot was blaming the passengers, telling them that it was because of them that the plane is delayed and I think that was what enraged the man. Waiting for over 10 hours, with no comforting place to relax, not enough food and water etc, had an effect. There is a tendency that when a human being is exhausted, rage and anger has the tendency to surface even more. Instead of the airline being considerate about the state of exhausted travellers, if they put the blame on the latter, it could really infuriate them and do something that is not in character at all. I don’t support the act of violence ever, but we have to also realise that we are pushing people to the brink, whether in terms of infrastructure or traffic or something else. We are not teaching the soft skills that are required to calm people down.”

She adds, “Remember, calmness is not only a mental state of mind, the environment plays a huge role in helping people’s nerves calm down. Here that is fraught with noise and commotion that exists for every act one has to undergo to get the simplest things. In the aerobridge case, what if someone has a medical emergency or claustrophobia or even has to use the bathroom? It would seem that we are at the tipping point of an epidemic-proportioned breakdown. There is so much disregard around and this does not augur well at all for society at large. If the airline knew there was no pilot available due to poor rostering or whatever their challenges were, and had they had taken ownership and responsibility, this would have never happened. But the entire ecosystem today is to never own up to the errors we make. In the Western world, you see people going out of their way to service us; they are apologetic and there is a sense of ownership. If you have that consideration and compassion, frayed never nerves will begin to ebb. If not, this is just the beginning, we will see many more incidences like this.”

Know your rights as a flier

Here are some Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) guidelines (as applicable to Indian airspace for domestic flying) that can help you as a passenger:

If a flight is cancelled, travellers can ask for a refund. If it is delayed by four-six hours (differs across carriers) and more, passengers can ask for a refund or a seat on an alternative flight. However, in cases of natural calamities, civil wars, etc., one can’t ask for a refund.

In cases where the flight is delayed beyond 24 hours, the airlines must arrange hotel accommodation, transfers, except in cases of extraordinary conditions such as extreme weather, security risks.

An airline carrier is not bound to give food and water to the passengers, but they should do so as a courtesy. The quality and quantity of food on domestic flights can vary from one airline’s policy to another.
- Inputs by Suhail Farooqui, aviation lawyer, Brus Chambers, Mumbai

3 Ways to deal with it

1) Keep yourself hydrated and well fed: Pre-empt the problem and prepare accordingly. So, carry along a chocolate bar or titbits like nuts, inhalers (if you need), eye mask for a catnap, etc. Drink enough water, too.

2) Distract yourself: Try going for a walk at the airport, reading, listening to music or watching a TV show on a gadget, so that you’re not at ready to tear your hair or someone else’s.

3) Accept things: Accept that are circumstances beyond your control and that the only thing in your control is how you manage yourself and not do anything silly. That is key.
- Inputs by Dr Varkha Chulani

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