Rampant Airport Delays Lead to Violence in China

Although the number of airline passengers has skyrocketed over the past decade, China’s infrastructure has been unable to keep the pace. And as the number of delayed flights have risen, so too have the accounts of passenger brawls and acts of civil disobedience.

The problem has gotten so bad, the employees of at least one Hong Kong airline are learning kung fu as self defense.

Beijing Capital International is the worst airport for on-time departures, with an average delay of nearly 90 minutes. Another Chinese airport, Shanghai Pudong International, ranks fourth on that same list. Fewer than 30 percent of flights leaving Beijing airport are on time.

China plans to invest $230 billion to build 55 new airports in the coming decades, including a second in Beijing that will become the world’s largest when completed. But that’s little solace to the passengers who are constantly bumped from their flights now.For more than a year, passengers — mostly Chinese, but some American and other nationalities — have routinely acted out against airline staff. A three-day and multiple cancellation delay for a 2012 United flight from Shanghai to Newark led to frazzled nerves and fisticuffs. After baggage personnel were caught manhandling travelers’ luggage, they were attacked and beaten by passengers. After the passengers were finally able to make it to their destination, they received $1,000 vouchers for a future United flight, although no one seemed to be in a hurry to use it.

Also in 2012, 20 or so angry passengers angered by a 16-hour flight delay, stormed the Shanghai runway, narrowly missing an oncoming plane. In July of this year, 30 other irate passengers stormed a runway in Nanchang after a seven-hour delay. The Shanghai passengers would later receive about $160 in compensation from the offending airline.

With no end in sight to delays, the problems seem to be worsening — more than 26 fights were broken up at Chinese airports between May and August of this year. Some of these brawls have sent airport employees to the hospital with severe injuries.

Luckily there have been peaceful protests as well. Last year a group of stranded passengers took over the public announcement system to sing songs after airline staff deserted the terminal.

Watch out, obnoxious passengers! Kung fu lessons for Hong Kong Airlines cabin crew

Working as part of an airline cabin crew can be a tough job, just ask Gadling’s very own Heather Poole. Passengers get drunk, passengers get rude, sometimes even passengers go on strike. Now the cabin crew of one airline are getting trained to strike back.

Hong Kong Airlines staff are taking kung fu lessons, the Guardian reports. The cabin crew is learning Wing Chun kung fu in order to deal with obnoxious passengers. According to the airline, a female cabin crew member has already used her new-found combat skills to deal with an unruly passenger, who an airline spokesman described only as “a fat guy”.

Maybe getting your add kicked at 33,000 feet should be added to our list of Top 10 Hong Kong Experiences.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Crazy passenger sprays water in cabin, threatens to blow up plane with the help of Satan

It has been several weeks since we last featured an unruly passenger – but the suspect in today’s story more than makes up for that.

Stanley Sheffield was flying the Delta red-eye from Los Angeles to Tampa earlier this week when he went a little cuckoo.

According to fellow passengers, Sheffield started throwing water through the cabin, then tried to open the airplane door while threatening to blow up the plane.

Then, after yelling “I’m going to blow you guys up and I’m going to take everybody with me”, he headed for the cockpit door yelling “get behind me, Satan”.

He was then subdued by fellow passengers. One of the men who held Sheffield was Kevin Kennedy, broadcaster for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Mr. Sheffield now faces charges for interfering with a flight crew and destruction of an aircraft. Local police did say they don’t see his actions as terrorist related. According to his ex-wife, her former husband need some serious medical help. Fingers crossed he gets the help he needs – and is kept off any airplanes for the time being.

(Suspect image from Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office)

Galley Gossip: 5 ways flight attendants handle difficult passengers

Flight attendants deal with unruly passengers all the time. How we handle a problem passenger depends on the situation. Most of the time a few simple techniques can be used to diffuse a situation, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Because sometimes, every once in awhile, we have no choice but to involve law enforcement – not just for our safety, but for the comfort and safety of passengers on board. What kind of behavior could possibly result in an arrest? The following scenarios actually took place in flight and are just a few examples of what not to do on an airplane.

THE GROPER: When I first started flying, a big wig studio executive sitting in first class from New York to Los Angeles walked into the business class galley and pinched my you-know-what in front of three coworkers. Shocked, we all just stood there trying to comprehend what had just happened. That’s when Mr. Big Wig actually did it again.

THE FIGHTER: A young woman dressed suggestively wandered around the coach cabin talking to several different male passengers. Later on we learned she had asked each one of them to buy her an alcoholic beverage. After they refused, she finally came back to the galley and requested a beer. The flight attendant refused to serve her since she appeared to be a minor. The passenger responded by punching the flight attendant in the face.

THE FLASHER: A passenger stood inside the lavatory with his pants down around his ankles. Whenever he’d hear someone pass by, he’d push the accordion door open and quickly expose himself.

Here’s a tip: If you wouldn’t do it at your mama’s house, don’t do it on the airplane.

Usually flight attendants can spot the typical problem passenger during boarding. This is because when we smile and say hello, they bite our heads off, letting us know exactly why they won’t be flying our airline ever again. Whether or not we had anything to do with what went wrong before they even came on board does not matter. We are now stuck for hours on end with an unhappy passenger who is determined to take it out on us.

Of course, it never fails, this same passenger will not find a place to stow their bags because they were late getting to the airport and now the overhead bins are full . This is the passenger whose seat does not recline due to the fact they’re sitting in front of the exit row. This is the passenger who did not get a chance to purchase a snack because we ran out of food before we even got to their row. This passenger, without a doubt, will snap at a flight attendant at some point during the flight. So what can a flight attendant do to keep the situation from escalating?


  1. Get down to their level: Literally, get down on one knee in the aisle. This position is less threatening to passengers
  2. Listen: Most passengers just want to be heard. That’s it.
  3. Keep calm: Do not raise your voice. Stay in control
  4. Just the facts: Ask what the problem is and then have the passenger suggest a solution. Keep emotions at bay.
  5. Excuse yourself: A new face is new energy. If you’re not getting anywhere with a difficult passenger, remove yourself from the situation and ask a coworker to step in. Even though a coworker may tell a passenger the exact same thing you did, they could get a completely different response.