A few years ago, I was on a KLM flight from Delhi to Amsterdam's Schipol airport, my destination as well. The plane took off at 6 or 7 am in the morning. It had been a tiring night, leaving the hotel at 3 am or some such hour and then dragging oneself to the Indira Gandhi International.
Not so for many of my co-passengers and country men as I discovered. Barely had we lifted off, some of them began walking up and down and loudly greeting their friends sitting elsewhere, like the take-off had been something to celebrate. Next, the purser was summoned and alchohol was requested for. The purser declined saying service would start a little later.
They waited for a little longer and then dispersed. I found out where a little later when I took a walk to the lavatory in the rear. A group of 10 or so men had collected and were imbibing fine scotch, or so it looked like. "Some whiskey for you ?" one of them asked me in a tone that was more a suggestion than a offer. I declined and requested to be allowed to pass. The `whishkey' was offered once more, till another, presumably more considerate, member of the group raised a `cheers' to me and moved his friend out of the way.
Their Idea Of Fun
For the next couple of hours, the pursers and air hostesses were constantly badgered for alchohol and accompaniments. When the purser put his foot down, they would cosy up to him, put an arm around his shoulder and wink.."Come on yaar, just one drink for us." The audio levels of the conversation at the rear steadily rose. By the end, it could have well been a Sunday morning bazaar.
The young men were having fun, the rest of the aircraft was not. There was a strained silence all across. Most passengers, particularly some younger women, looked extremely stressed. Like me, everyone was hoping these guys would not do something stupid. And not knowing what would happen if they did.
This was a few years before 9/11. No one had used aircraft as instruments of destruction so the fear was limited. People on my flight were worried about a law and order problem. They were not worried about any terrorist problem. At least I don't think so. Fortunately, nothing happened and the exuberant gathering soon dispersed, fully satiated and settled down to sleep.
Decorum On An Aircraft
I am pretty sure this sort of behaviour would have caused equal consternation today. With a difference. Some of the actions and defiance could be interpreted as terrorist behavious. Or someone with a design to do serious damage, either to the aircraft, the people or a third target.
The problem is many people fly for the first time. Understanding decorum and behaviour on aircraft (or for that matter buses and trains) is not something that comes naturally. No one teaches it to you. Perhaps its time that we did. Notices at international airports (I noticed them in the US I think) already warn you against making any statement about a bomb in your baggage..jocularly.
Some not so frequent fliers might think its fun to run around the aircraft, brandishing cell phones and the like. Some of us who grow up don't do so respecting authority. After all, this is something you do as a kid, not as an adult. We also assume authority everywhere to react the same way our local `pandu' does - a fiver and he's on his way. It struck me that the young men who boarded the KLM at Delhi were treating the purser like they would a local constable or some minor government official.
No More Mid-Air Antics
Well, don't expect airline staff or marshals on board to think similarly. And not just on international but aircraft flying domestic skies as well. Not any more. The world has changed, mid-air antics will not be tolerated. And you better understand that. Airlines need to to their bit to tell passengers in no uncertain terms that funny behaviour will not be tolerated. For their own good. Its not tough to do it.
The guys on my KLM flight to Amsterdam got away luckily. Personally, I would have liked to see them taught a lesson. Maybe a small one, but one nevertheless.
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