An American Airlines pilot explains his reasoning to his passengers after a brief delay and the removal of another unruly passenger.
Shared to Reddit, the video captured by a passenger aboard an American Airlines flight last week shows a pilot speaking to a plane full of passengers as he explains the reason for the delay. In an even-keeled voice, the pilot lays his reasoning out: “It’s not a negotiation. On this aircraft, I am God.”
Apparently, the flight had yet another unruly passenger who (thankfully) left the flight under his/her own willpower instead of being forcibly removed by law enforcement, who was refusing to wear their face mask. After his announcement, the passengers break out into light applause.
This pilot is not wrong in his clarification of his authority (if not a bit dramatic). Indeed, current law supports the pilot’s assertions (see below). The law covering this authority has its roots in maritime law whereby the captain of ship is more or less “god” on his/her vessel.
“The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft.”Cornell Law; FAR 91.3
AINOnline notes, “A ship’s captain had absolute authority and was the unquestioned commander responsible for the ship, cargo, and crew.” This philosophy has more or less been applied to airline captains while in flight. While on the ground, the skipper, however, shares joint responsibility with the dispatcher.
While we certainly aren’t lawyers it certainly seems like this captain was well within his rights to remove this passenger and aside from being a bit dramatic about it, he seems to have made the right call. The last thing aircrew wants these days is an in-flight incident which is why crew prefers to remove potentially unruly passengers from flights before they take off where their options are less flexible (divert or carry on).
The Federal Aviation Administration has stiffened penalties for uncoorperative passengers including doling out large fines to some, like this $10,000 fine to one passenger on a recent Mesa Airlines flight. Since January of this year, the FAA has reported over 3,000 unruly passenger incidents, a radical increase over prior years.
Despite the pandemic winding down in some parts of the world – and with it, mask regulations are being relaxed – the FAA (and thus airlines) still require face masks or coverings to be worn in flight. The same is true for airports as well.
And many people are very unhappy with the continuation of these rules.
h/t to View from the Wing
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