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Fight or flight? The emotional impact for flight attendants when passengers behave badly

An incident such traumatic as this can deeply impact flight attendants who are directly involved in attempting to safeguard passengers. Picture: Unsplash

An incident such traumatic as this can deeply impact flight attendants who are directly involved in attempting to safeguard passengers. Picture: Unsplash

Published May 29, 2023


The potential consequences of such a situation could have resulted in catastrophic outcomes.

In the face of the danger, the flight attendant displayed an extraordinary fight or flight response by bravely positioning herself in front of the open door.

However, it raises questions about the risks flight attendants face as part of their job, including the potential threat of being pulled out of an aircraft.

Flight attendants are taught that they must prioritise the safety of passengers before their own. Covering the exit door is essential to prevent passengers from accidentally falling out or being exposed to the external elements, which could lead to injuries or worse.

Flight Safety International, a leading provider of aviation training, emphasises the critical responsibility of flight attendants to secure exit doors during emergencies.

Its comprehensive training programme notes the importance of maintaining cabin safety and it instructs flight attendants on the proper procedures for securing exit doors under various scenarios.

By following these guidelines, flight attendants contribute to the overall safety and security of passengers on board

However, an incident as traumatic as the one on the Asiana Airline plane can deeply impact flight attendants who have the responsibility of safeguarding passengers and securing the aircraft.

Having to make quick decisions to ensure the safety of everyone on board, can leads to anxiety and other emotional issues.

According to a “Travel and Leisure”, if someone open the plane door, even by mistake, when it is in the air, there is a chance they will be put on the no-fly list for a specific time. It’s considered unruly behaviour if a passenger endangers the lives of other passengers and crew members.

In this case, the culprit could be facing more than just a ban. During preliminary questioning with investigators, he said he had felt suffocated and wanted to exit the plane quickly.

As a result of his opening the the door of the Asiana Airlines Airbus A321-200, 12 people sustained minor injuries.

The forceful opening caused a rush of air into the cabin, leading to terrified passengers experiencing severe ear pain and breathing difficulties. Some passengers were screaming and crying.

The aftermath of such incidents also leaves a lasting impact on passengers, some may experience trauma and a range of emotional responses.

Feelings of panic, vulnerability and anxiety can persist long after the incident, potentially influencing their future travel experiences. Some may not attempt to fly again.

The Transport Ministry said that if found guilty, he could potentially receive a maximum prison sentence of 10 years for violating the aviation security law that prohibits passengers from tampering with entry doors, emergency exit doors, and other on-board equipment.

Read from the latest issue of TRAVEL digital magazine here.