Cabin crew report depression and suicidal thoughts amid increase in ‘mask rage’ on flights

As airlines face massive reopening of travel routes and an increase in unruly passenger behavior, a growing number of U.S. airline staff have reported suffering from depression, with some claiming to have had suicidal thoughts. .

a Flight Attendants Association Survey of nearly 5,000 crew members this summer, 85 percent had dealt with disruptive passengers this year; of these incidents, 17% degenerated into physical altercations.

The study also found that 71% of crew members who filed incident reports with their airline said they received no follow-up action.

A majority of those polled said they had seen no effort to counter the increase in passenger aggressiveness.

“This investigation confirms what we all know, the vitriolic, verbal and physical violence by a small group of passengers is completely out of control and puts other passengers and crew at risk,” said Sara Nelson, president of the ‘Association of Flight. Attendants.

“What is happening on the plane is just totally at odds with what we know and feel about our job. It’s confusing, it’s frustrating, it’s terrifying at times – but neither is something we can accept as a new normal. “

The results of the AFA survey correspond to anecdotes received by Nas Lewis, a flight attendant who started the Facebook group “thAIRapy” – a place for industry professionals to express themselves and share their experiences.

Drawing on the experiences of the group’s more than 4,000 members, Lewis said Yahoo! that she had seen a worrying increase in mentions of depression and burnout from airline staff.

“So many flight attendants [tell] me, ‘Oh my God, I need a therapist’ or … ‘I feel really suicidal,’ ”she said.

“Just last week, a foreign student came and said, ‘I need help. I’m broke. I really don’t feel like I’m going to live anymore. ‘ “

She said members of the group saw little support and respect for the crew members who had “essentially saved the industry” last year.

“Talking about mental health in my profession is a big conflict of interest,” says Lewis.

“[Airlines] don’t want the responsibility of [passengers knowing] that your flight attendants suffer and commit suicide. They don’t want us to say these things. But I said it.

During the pandemic, the industry has seen the rise of ‘mask rage’ on flights – just last week Iata reported that incidents of unruly passengers doubled in 2020, with the trend continuing into 2021.

A member airline reported 1,000 incidents of non-compliance in a single week.

Twenty years ago, “every person who came on our plane was completely a part of our team,” Sara Nelson told the New York Times. Now, she says, flight attendants have become “punching bags for the public.”

At one point, literally: In October, an American Airlines flight to John Wayne Airport in Orange County was diverted to Denver after one of the passengers physically attacked a flight attendant .

The United States’ Federal Airline Association (FAA) recorded 4,600 incidents between January and early October 2021, 72% of which were related to non-compliance with the country’s federal mandate to wear a mask on all planes and at airports.

The airline’s body imposed more than $ 1million (£ 842,530) in fines against disruptive passengers in 2021.

Southwest Airlines COO Mike Van de Ven spoke in August, telling employees he was aware the pandemic had “taken a toll on our operations and put a lot of pressure on you all.” And for that, I am sincerely sorry.

An American Airlines spokesperson told Yahoo! : “We provide all American Airlines team members and their families with access to mental health support through our Employee Assistance Program.

“This includes virtual, phone and in-person support opportunities through on-site advisors at many of our locations. “

A Delta spokesperson said, “In recent years, Delta has invested in expanding access to and coverage of mental health resources for all of our employees.

“We have long believed that courtesy at our airports and on our flights is a hallmark of our values-driven culture and we thank our flight attendants for the professional security role they play in ensuring a pleasant experience, reliable and comfortable to our customers on every Delta flight.

Lewis says many cabin crew want to persevere and feel happier in their careers, but employer support and aviation reform are key to making that happen.

“We love our job,” she says. “All we want to do is be transparent about what’s going on. “

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