Saturday, May 06, 2017

A Good Rant

airline cabins are dictatorships, not democracies

I found this little essay while surfing the Interwebs. Slightly overwrought perhaps, but it does a reasonable job of getting this guy's point across. Enjoy:

Let's get some facts on the table. As an airline captain, I am the sole authority on the airplane. With that authority comes great responsibility. Likewise, FAR 91.1 states that I am solely responsible for the safe operation of the flight. Therefore, I am responsible for each and every one of you once you cross the threshold of the airplane door. Keep that in mind as we progress.

In other words, you break a rule and I could lose my license. My livelihood is not worth your inability to comply. That aside, lets look at why the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR's) are what they are.

Most pilots will agree that the FAR's are written in blood. Every one of the rules was written as the result of the loss of life (a crash.) For example, most of you don't get why you have to have your seat-back and your tray table up for take off. Fact is, the most dangerous part of your fight is the high-speed takeoff regime-- that point from approximately 100 mph to lift-off. I don't need to get into the reasons why, but it is.

Should an engine fail and the captain decide to stop on the runway, the odds are great that the plane will sustain damage and emergency evacuation will be likely. Imagine that situation with the moron in front of you having reclined his seat to the aft position and the idiot in the seat between you and the aisle having his tray table down.

The FAA knows this and regulates against it because the FAA certifies airplanes based on a full airplane evacuation in a set amount of time. They do not take into account idiots like the guys ahead of you and next to you. In this scenario, you will likely burn and die. Those non-compliers blocked your egress, and you suffered.

I wish our Flight Attendants could tell you all this. Maybe you would police each other for your own safety. Then, our flight attendants would not have to tell you to put your seat up and hear words like "witch" uttered under your breath. This is just one example of rules made by the FAA to protect YOUR safety.

Fast forward to this situation. Do you remember 9/11? Do you remember Pan Am 103? There are so many security protocols of which you are not aware. Seats assigned must match names. Luggage must match seats assigned. You cannot book on two flights simultaneously. The computer systems know this. You cannot merely give a seat to another person. That is kinda how Pan Am 103 happened--seat bought for someone then someone else showed up and took the seat.

As a result, the security systems in place at every airline can immediately send me, on the flight deck at Flight Level 350 (35,000 feet), everything I want to know about you. I can conference call every government security entity that I so desire. I plan to go home to my son and the other Captain Walker at the end of every flight, so guess what? I’m not giving an inch on security. I get paid to get ALL 220 people there safely, not just you and your whiney, self-centered issues. Your refusal to play by the rules like the rest of us and merely change the name on the seat is no better than any other law-breaker.

At some point, all this arguing on the ground in the back of my airplane becomes a threat to FAR 91.1, my edict that I ensure the safe operation of the flight. If you cannot follow orders on the ground, it’s highly unlikely you will do so at FL 350. Get one thing strait, once you board a US airliner, you are entering a DICTATORSHIP.

IT IS NOT A DEMOCRACY. I AM THE DICTATOR. NORMALLY, I AM A VERY BENEVOLENT DICTATOR, BUT A DICTATOR, NONETHELESS! DON’T FORGET THAT. It is my ship. I am in command. I have the full faith and backing of the Federal Aviation Administration (thus the US Government), my company, and my co-workers. There are NO “ifs”, “ands”, or “buts” about it! I don’t care about your lawyers, or your camera phone.

I have one job to do, and that responsibility--the safety of the other 199 people--trumps your wants or needs. And, if I do not do that job, including removing you for being disruptive, I could lose my licenses, livelihood, and even end up in jail. Therefore, when push comes to shove, I WILL WIN. You can take that to the bank.

Let me take a moment and explain this. 99.99999% of the time, all goes great. I meet wonderful customers for whom I am sincerely thankful for their business. I take kids to see Mickey Mouse; military sons to reunite with their families; and, even fallen heros home to rest. But, every now and then, there is one. There is one person who cannot play by the rules; one person who thinks their situation is more important that all the others on the airplane; one who just cannot follow instructions.

Imagine for a moment you are a Captain on a flight with someone who just cannot follow instructions, whether it be not turning off their phones for takeoff (there really is a reason for this), or someone won’t put their tray table up. You know all this before take off because the flight attendants keep calling. Would you take this insolent passenger for a ride knowing that if everything goes great, no harm done, but if one thing goes wrong, you could be called to sit before the NTSB and answer questions about your judgment and likely lose your career?

You have a passenger on board who will not comply with simple flight crew requests on the ground, and you stupidly take them flying. Now you are at FL350. You cage a motor; conduct an emergency descent; and, ask your flight attendants to prepare the cabin for an emergency landing. There are deadheading flight crew in various seats in the back. They are fully trained on the operation of the over-wing exits, slides, rafts, and evacuations.

As Captain, you tell the flight attendants to move the crew to the emergency exit rows to facilitate a fast evacuation giving the most number of passengers a fighting chance at survival. However, your insolent problem who refused to put up his tray table is now refusing to change seats with the trained deadheading pilots. The lives of 200 people are in your hands. What do you do?

Now, perhaps, you understand why the law of the sea governs the skies. You know why you need that dictator at that point who knows their job, and can fly the $hit out of that plane. And, you know why the majority of us pilots will get problems removed before we ever get in the air.


  1. I have a better idea there, Cap. How about unfucking your industry? Want to know why passengers are all pissed off? It's the entire flying experience. It starts at the counter with the rude agents, God forbid you can find one when the kiosk is out of paper and won't print your boarding pass, and works its way to the cabin door, where a brace of ancient and jaded flight attendants are trying to cram 150 passengers into a plane designed for 90 that your carrier sold 160 seat for. Then the flight is late at the connection and re-booking the follow on becomes a nightmare because everything is oversold.

    Commercial air travel in the U.S. on a domestic carrier? I'd rather drive, thank you.


    1. I don't care how many rude agents you encounter before you board the plane, the bottom line is, once you board the plane the captain is responsible for your life as well as my life. And your being inconvienced does not give you the right to endanger the other passengers. Glad you enjoy driving but I find just as much danger on the highways with road rage drivers as I do flying. I'll take my chances with a trained pilot.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. K... Flight attendants dont cram passengers. The airlines do. if it was for the f/a's, there would be half the number seats on the airplanes, the fares would be twice the price and maybe that would keep angry, entitled trash like you from cramming our cabins.... keep on driving and stay gone. let's see you drive across the ocean.

    4. K -

      Thanks for providing the living example of the exact attitude the Capt. was talking about. How about you unfjck your head?

  2. To K:
    I respectfully disagree with part of what you have said. Not saying there aren't issues with the flying industry that need to be addressed but that it relates to what Captain Rob said. They don't all go hand in hand.
    1. The flying industry still needs some adjustments but at the same time so do we as customers/passengers of the airlines. That is a topic all by itself and separate from this discussion.
    2. Passengers being "pissed off" for 98% of the time would have nothing to do with the pilot but with everything else normally out of his control.
    3. I can't attest to rude agents as everyone books differently and we have different experiences. Last I checked we are all human and have bad days. Not dismissing anyone in the airline industry being rude to a customer/passenger, but at the same time we need to be respectful of them as well.
    4. Cramming passengers in like sardines is not the fault of the airline staff. This is another industry wide issue needing fixed at a higher level between the airlines, travel agencies, etc.
    5. Late flights happen for so many reasons both within and without the control of the airline pilot. As Captain Rob stated, he's responsible for the safety of everyone on his plane. So I would rather be late and arrive alive than to have to worry that he took a shortcut not doing his job. Weather issues are not in his control and he does the best he can to get us where we are going in a safe manner.
    6. We as passengers have responsibilities too. Arguing about the FAR is not helping anyone get to their destinations quicker. We seem to think that because we paid for a ride on the airline that we are entitled to certain things and exempt from others.

    Here is where I feel things need to change.
    1. Airports and Airplanes should NOT be allowed to serve alcohol at all. This would reduce and/or eliminate so many problems prior to and after boarding and take off.
    2. I've heard this referenced many times and disagree with the airline industry, the comparison that we paid for a ticket to use the plane is not correct. We purchased a ticket to have them provide a service. They are the same as a train, boat, bus, taxi, in that they are paid to get us from point A to point B. While a plane can hold more people than a taxi, bus, etc, they are still providing a similar service. The big difference is that they are getting us to our destinations in a vehicle that goes faster, farther, and can be more deadly than any of the other methods of transportation.

    Thank you,
    Rick K.

  3. I have done many miles in 747s and other aircraft over the years and I can say that every aircraft flight crew from the Captain down have been awesome. Unfortunately over those years the support ground crew have slowly gotten worse to a point where my flying experience in nowhere as good as it once was. To a point that I just don't want to fly anymore. I call it the end of an era.......

    Jack Chomley Australia.

  4. Don't fly if you can't follow the rules.The booking agents & the processes are completely different from flight operations.Once on board, the Captain is fully in charge of...YOUR LIFE.So sit down & behave to all you vagabonds who rant & rave about flying.

  5. I must be lucky. Every single person I have dealt with is professional, friendly and even when a bit snarky, it's nothing excessive. I respect my pilots, my stewards, and the crew that gets my luggage on and off the plane so I always get it. So Mr. Captain/God (LOL) thank you for your professionalism and taking care of me, the passenger.

  6. Your Post does not Address Overbooking,,,,Overbooking should be illegal,,,,once People buy a Ticket no refund whether they show up or not,,,,need to fly a Flightcrew somewhere,,,,then Charter a Private Plane and fly them there don't inconvenience Your Customers,,,,In the Old Days Flying was an Honor and a Pleasure,,,Today just Cattle Cars with Wings and I have flown all over the World including Combat and Jumping out of Airplanes,,,,it's not the Pilots and Crews Fault it is Management's Fault and our Ungracious and Uncaring Society.

    1. In the "old days" you had to be pretty well off to fly. You want the old days? Then forget about flying across the country for $200.

    2. Overbooking wouldn't be necessary if ignorant people would cancel their reservations and free up the seats.

  7. When in Rome comes to mind , and i totally agree 99 % of passengers would behave a lot better if drinking alcohol was not sold or given on board , and if already drunk not allowed to board Aircraft.

  8. I agree with the captain.You still can choose to fly or not! If you do not like the rules stay at home or drive your car or take the train or walk. It is a shame for us pax that a pilot has to explain in such a way...... Hopefully everybody got it!


I welcome feedback. If you have any comments, questions or requests for future topics, please feel free to comment. Comment moderation is on to reduce spam, but I'll post all legit comments.Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to visit my Facebook page!

Capt Rob