Frontier Airlines’ Flight 2289 arrived in Miami at 1:18 Sunday morning, August 1. One usual feature of the interior of this aircraft as this flight was: passenger Maxwell Berry, who had become unruly in the course of the flight from Philadelphia, was literally taped to his seat. 

Berry had become intoxicated, groped the breasts of two flight attendants, punched another, and boasted loudly to all who could hear that his family is rich. They are worth “two million goddamn dollars.” 

Frontier Airlines turned Mr. Berry over to the Miami-Dade authorities. He was booked that day and released. 

But the story took a strange turn at this point. It became a labor-management story. Frontier suspended the crew, (though with pay) pending “further investigation.”   

Frontier Airlines’ Problem is Not Uncommon

Unruly passengers like Maxwell Berry aren’t uncommon. But the recorded footage shows Berry out of control and the attendants doing the best they can to control the situation. The minute video of unruly passengers hits social media it typically goes viral.

A recent survey indicates that 85% of flight attendants say they have dealt with an unruly passenger this year: 2021. More than 60% say they have experiences at least five such incidents in the post-pandemic period.

There are a number of reasons for this. Much of the unruliness (through not Maxwell Berry’s) involves passengers refusing to wear masks. That is part of a broader culture war, in which a large part of the country asserts that Covid-19 is merely the flu, or masks don’t work to protect against the virus. 

The rise in incidents post-pandemic may be attributed to people being cooped up for so long. There has clearly been an affect on mental health in America and other nations. And airlines seem to be the unfortunate beneficiary. 

Controlling What They Can Control

Crews have no choice but to control their passengers. But how far can they go? And does everyone agree on the protocols?

Sara Nelson, the Union’s president, said in a statement:  “A drunk and irate passenger verbally, physically and sexually assaulted multiple members of the crew. When he refused to comply after multiple attempts to de-escalate, the crew was forced to restrain the passenger with the tools available to them onboard. We are supporting the crew.”

Frontier then appeared to back down from its earlier characterization. It issued another statement assuring the public that it has the utmost “respect, concern and support for all of our flight attendants, including those who were assaulted on this flight.”

This matter may be smoothed over. But if tempers continue in the air then they will also continue in labor management relations. Indeed, labor-management relations in this industry have been notoriously tricky for decades. A hearing on the subject before a committee of the U.S. Senate 20 years ago indicated as much.

How do you think the Frontier crew should have handled the Maxwell Berry incident? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!