THE problem of angry passengers attacking airline crew over flight delays and diversions has become a frequent occurrence, according to pilots and passengers who have been caught up in frightening airport altercations.
After revelations a Jetstar pilot and crew were held hostage at Shanghai airport on Friday, there has been a huge public response citing numerous similar situations.
Among them, Sydney consultant Will Gardner said he had been a witness to a drama also in Shanghai three years ago that erupted into angry scenes when his flight to Tokyo was cancelled.
But in that case, Dr Gardner said the crew and ground staff of a Chinese airline had walked away, leaving passengers without any accommodation or alternative transport.
''A group of passengers eventually managed to convince the airline to arrange accommodation, ground transport and a replacement flight the next day,'' he said.
''However, for this to happen, it involved almost violent scenes where local Chinese were vandalising the service desks and coming close to assaulting staff.
''It seemed that the norm is for the airlines in Shanghai to leave passengers stranded, which could explain why the crowd took action so violently this week.''
A family was caught in a frightening episode in Hong Kong in July. Stewart Meas and his family were on holidays from the US when their flight to Shanghai was delayed for more than seven hours.
''A mob scene at the airport lasted more than nine hours. It was a frightening event,'' Mr Meas said.
An Australian expat living in China said during a delay several years ago, passengers revolted and physically handled and abused the purser, in a drama that lasted seven hours.
''We made calls for help to the police, airport services, our own airline and yet no help came.''
There has also been widespread public support for the Jetstar captain and crew who came under attack. The captain has been praised for keeping calm even while being physically restrained and bailed up against a wall by a crowd of irate passengers.
The Jetstar A330-200 from Melbourne had taken on passengers in Singapore and was flying to Beijing when it had to be diverted to Shanghai because of bad weather.
US passenger Alastair Johnson said he tried to go to the aid of the pilot as security, immigration and customs officers stood by and watched as a mob encircled him.
Many Australian pilots also supported the Jetstar crew and said the incidents are too frequent to ignore.
One pilot working overseas said no airline pilot, be they from Australia or not, is trained to face an angry mob.
''One dissatisfied passenger, yes,'' he said. ''What you relate [in Shanghai] has to do with mob control. Not our job, especially after a long night on the stick.
''What I can, however, tell you is that we witness day in and day out obnoxious behaviours from passengers. This industry has become low cost … and for that price you also get low-cost behaviour.''
Another pilot said the altercation must be followed up.
''We cannot let this incident pass without further comment, as it is vital that people know that engaging in this sort of behaviour is nothing short of a criminal act,'' the pilot said.
''It is my hope that some sort of editorial comes from this, decrying the actions of those involved. I also hope that such editorial action will spur the Australian government into taking swift action.''
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