Flight Attendants have one more thing to deal with these days: people are touching them more. Indeed, according to one flight attendant, the frequency at which passengers physically touch them has increased and that’s got many of them on edge. The cause? Face masks.
In a recent interview with Bustle Magazine, Flight Attendant Kate shared a disturbing consequence of working in a mask-wearing world. People are now physically contacting, often just touching or tapping, flight attendants more often than in the past:
“People touch us more because of the masks — they don’t think I can hear them with it on, so they’ll tap me to get my attention, and it puts me on edge. I even got pushed yesterday by someone who wanted me to notice them. It’s gotten to the point where I have a knot in my stomach every time I leave for the airport — I know it’s not going to be a good day. It’s rarely a good day anymore; it’s usually passable or tiring and somewhat bad”Bustle Magazine Interview with “Kate”
Anyone who has traveled during the pandemic or recently knows that face masks are still required on all airplanes and in airports. The face mask requirements have been a continual source of consternation for many passengers. Unfortunately, staggering increases in unruly passenger incidents have become a hallmark of pandemic-era travel.
The FAA recently reported that nearly 4000 unruly passengers incidents have occurred in 2021 alone with almost 73% of those being directly related to “mask-wearing.” Many of these incidents involved physical altercations or the threat of physical violence.
Flight Attendants, many of whom were already taking TSA-sponsored self-defense courses, now have to deal with unwanted touching by likely well-intentioned (let’s hope) passengers.
If the threats of violence and actual violence weren’t enough, the increase in non-violent physical contact has increased as well. According to Kate, passengers assume the FAs can’t hear them and will often resort to tapping or touching the FA to get their attention. This has set many FAs on edge. Presumably worried about what might otherwise be an innocuous touch being the “violent altercation” they’ve been dreading.
The physical, mental, and emotional toll seems to be adding up for many FAs as they face this sort of behavior on an apparently daily basis. Kate notes, “As a flight attendant, our job is to make people happy. We’re a social group of people that likes to make others feel comfortable. So to have a majority of our interactions at work be so hostile and angry takes a toll on you pretty quickly.”
Some good news is on the horizon though as the FAA recently announced that stricter measures including the doubling of fines for unruly passengers finally seems to be making a dent in the frequency of incidents. Indeed, the FAA reported a 50% reduction since raising the penalties for such incidents.
Even still, one incident is one too many. Until then, our advice is simple: don’t be a dick. Wear your mask, don’t touch the flight attendant, and chill out.