Sixty-eight year old Lenny Mordarski did not expect to be woken by feeling like he was being stung by bees, but that is exactly how he described the sensation of being jabbed with a ball point pen while waiting for his flight to depart from Chicago last Thursday April 16, 2015.  The older woman sitting next to him on the Southwest Airline, headed for New Hampshire, prodded him with a pen, leaving multiple marks on his shirt and loud exclamations from Mr. Mordarski.

Mr. Mordarski’s friend, Michael Sutton, explained that the woman began stabbing Lenny with the pen after his arm brushed up against her while he slept.  Others reported that he had been snoring loudly on the plane.  The woman, who was escorted off the plane by police, was placed on another flight.  The woman could have been charged with assault.

The incident took place on the runway, before takeoff.  The flight was delayed for almost two hours.

Tempers seem to be flaring on flights, with more air rage incidents being reported in the media.  It is no secret that airlines have been reducing seat size, in order to increase passenger capacity for flights, thereby increasing their profits as well.

Cynthia Corbertt, a Researcher with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, reported that its’ safety tests are run with a traditional seat pitch of 31 inches.  Pitch is defined as the distance from any point on one seat to the same point on the seat in front or behind it.  Many airlines now have now decreased seat pitch 2-3 inches.  Airlines have even made seat cushions thinner, so that the measurement for leg room is enhanced.

In the past, with enough notice, taller or larger passengers could have selected a bulk head seat (in Emergency Rows) providing a slightly greater amount of leg room, but now these seats now cost more.  Air Canada Rouge charges an additional $70 for bulkhead seats, per flight.

Airlines have also introduced checked baggage fees, which have resulted in more passengers carrying on bags to stow in overhead bins or under their seats.  AirCanada’s Rouge Airline charges $25 for passenger’s first checked bag, and $35 for the second checked bags.  Changes in such fee structures has not necessarily resulted in more scrutiny about the carry on bags meeting the required size limitations, meaning that stressful situations can arise when a passenger attempts to stow their baggage when overhead bins in their section are already full.

“More passengers are carrying on bags, fighting for space in overhead bins.  That anger carries over through the flight as passengers bump elbows on armrests and bang their knees against tray tables”, stated Scott Mayerowitz from the Associated Press (April 15, 2015).

Delayed and diverted flights due to unruly passenger behaviour cost Airlines thousands of dollars.  Some cases result in passenger fines, criminal charges and even imprisonment.


Jayne Embree, M.A.

Jayne holds a Masters in Psychology and is a highly experienced Divorce Coach and Child Specialist.  She is currently working with the Administrative and Human Resources Departments of Butterfield Law.