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The Intersection of Aviation and Politics

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Nearly a hundred years ago, the Nobel Prize winning German philosopher Thomas Mann wrote “[t]here is nothing that is not political. Everything is politics.”  These days, politics has become the lens through which all actions are judged.  Thanks to social media, something as apolitical as a company providing air transportation can find itself in the middle of a political and media firestorm at a moment’s notice.

For example, just this week, a woman who had come to Washington to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump had to be removed from a plane when she provoked a political argument with a Trump supporter sitting next to her.  According to media reports, the woman asked the man if he had come to protest or support President Trump.  When he responded that he was there to “celebrate democracy,” the woman began to berate him, requiring the intervention of a flight attendant.  At this point, with tempers flaring, the flight crew was called on to make quick decisions to try to defuse the conflict, and, when it appeared that the woman would not let it go, take control of the situation.

Of course, what everyone would agree is that every delicate situation now has the potential to become a public relations nightmare due to the ubiquitous cell phone.  What once would have been nothing more than a small human interest story of a few lines about someone being ejected from a plane becomes a dramatic event that everyone in the world can watch over and over again, from every conceivable angle, with arm chair pundits second guessing the actions of all of the participants.  This high profile incident joins several others that also got a great deal of attention recently, such as Ivanka Trump being harassed by a fellow passenger during boarding, and the Trump supporter who earned a lifetime ban from an airline for berating Hillary Clinton supporters.

With literally the whole world watching every minor incident, the airlines have been well served by the calm professionalism of their employees.  Perhaps we, as passengers can follow their lead.  Even if we can’t act “professionally” as passengers, at least try to be level headed and courteous to each other, particularly since we will be sitting together in a confined space for several hours as we travel.

P.S. Watch the video and look at her husband . . . .