What is it about airports and the devolution of reasonable interpersonal skills?

interrogation.jpg[Also posted over at “This Is Why I Love Minneapolis (And Sometimes Saint Paul)”, due to cross-over appeal.]

The story of how immigration agents at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport harassed, threatened and defaced the passports of some noteworthy Finnish visitors in September for absolutely no reason is still harshing my mellow.

Here’s the local paper’s account and the coverage over at The Perrin Post Travel Blog.

I’m mortified on behalf of both my city and country. The conduct of these f*ckwits smacks of the amateurish, rent-a-cop antics you’d expect from nightclub bouncers in West Los Angeles. No manners, no reasonable communication, just straight to apeshit hysterics and unnecessary cruelty. I don’t care if Pablo Escobar staggers off the plane with a 30 gallon trash bag of cocaine, a loaded bazooka and a lead for an illegal job vacuuming offices in downtown St. Paul, there’s no excuse for that kind of behavior.

And, as with most gross misconduct complaints like this, you know for every one famous visiting musician that gets a little press over their incident, there’s 20 hapless dupes arriving from Uruguay or Thailand who get detained and bullied for five hours and then tossed out onto the street without so much as cursory explanation or, Buddha forbid, an apology.

I think these immigration agents should be re-assessed and busted down to the Ashtray Sanitation Crew accordingly, but only after they’ve been flown to Helsinki, been held for three hours for no reason, screamed at, interrogated and censured all in Finnish and then had their passports used for urinal target practice. (I’m a big fan of the Wrath)

The larger problem is the pervading and mounting phenomenon where airports have become a disrespectful, ruthless, manner deficient free-for-all.

It started years ago – pioneered if I’m not mistaken by the collective employees of a Minneapolis-based airline named after a compass-point – where one day check-in agents, gate agents and flight attendants simultaneously decided to treat all their customers like adversaries and freeloaders. This attitude spread around to security, baggage handlers (Remember that footage from a few years back of handlers at MSP playing a form of basketball with bags, performing hook shots and jumpers while unloading a plane? And then the union had the nerve to turn around and blame the airline? Only in America…) and finally, when we couldn’t take it anymore, passengers.

When did weekly air rage incidents start making news? Ten years ago? I’ve theorized that the sudden onset of this phenomenon after half a century of commercial aviation is due to treatment at the hands of rude, vindictive, clinically idiotic airline employees. These air rage stories are usually only about 200 words long, just enough space to illustrate how the passenger got on the plane drunk and/or agitated and started spitting on flight attendants. Sounds like an ill-mannered nutcase, huh? Well, maybe if these stories were 500 words long, and they bothered to give the passenger’s perspective, new details would come to light like how before the spitting started, the passenger was charged a $300 penalty for luggage that was 2 lbs. overweight, then selected for a random, two-finger body cavity search, which took so long that he only had six minutes to race a mile to his plane while trying to control the tautness of his newly enlarged sphincter, then the plane was delayed for 45 minutes while they bumped 12 passengers because they over-booked, then they missed their take-off window and had to sit in the tarmac for four hours due to an Air Traffic Control (ATC) snafu at LAX, causing him to miss his connecting flight to Hong Kong, then they de-planed everyone for 90 minutes while they replaced a burnt out ‘check engine’ light in the cockpit, during which time he learned from a righteously callous gate agent that the airline would not be compensating him for his missed connecting flight because he had the nerve to book the Hong Kong flight on another airline and neither would they be giving him a hotel voucher in LA, because the ATC was entirely to blame for the delay, so he went and got loaded on Long Island Iced Teas at the bar conveniently located across from the gate while waiting to get back on the plane, then the flight attendant informed everyone that even though they had been delayed by over six hours they would not be feeding passengers anything but soggy, week-old sandwiches ($7) and when the guy complained about this he was chastised for not having taken the opportunity to feed himself at the Cinnabon in the terminal while they were fixing the plane and so (I never saw this coming) the guy loses his shit and starts spitting on flight attendants.

How could he have acted so despicably?

There’s another side to every story folks, especially when conniving US-based airlines are involved. Even I’ve fallen victim to the trend where airline misbehavior begets more explicit passenger misbehavior. In August due to the actions of two airlines working in concert (I’ll refer to them as “Del-$hiteating-ta ” and “North-motherf*cking-west” to protect their anonymity), I was abandoned without shelter at that hellhole JFK for 24 hours, I had no recourse for the onward flights within Europe that their ineptitude had forced me to miss and that they weren’t entirely sure where my bag was, but maybe they could produce it by 1AM. All this news was delivered via payphone, since no one at North-motherf*cking-west hangs around at night to see to the welfare of passengers they’ve screwed. In the ensuing frenzy of rage, I very nearly destroyed the payphone with my bare hands.

As an oft abused traveler, I maintain that the solution starts with the airlines. They need to pay their people better, which should induce slightly better employee behavior (or better yet, just fire that assembly Social Deviant All Stars they’ve been propping up for years and start from scratch) and stop erasing any semblance of passenger rights and maybe the trickle down will return airport conduct to something more closely resembling civilized society.

[Photo credit: bisquickgod]