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Verbal threats/harassment by passenger, little action by FAs

Verbal threats/harassment by passenger, little action by FAs

Old Feb 5, 2018, 9:32 pm
  #1  
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Verbal threats/harassment by passenger, little action by FAs

I know there's a comment/complaint thread but I think this issue is different from the more everyday payment/miles crediting/etc. issues.


I flew on a DOH-JFK flight recently. At the secondary screening area at the Doha gate, a passenger in front of me was talking very loudly about checking for terrorists because there were lots of terrorists here. I found this strange and looked at him, and then he asked me if I "was a devil worshipper" because only "devil worshippers looked like that." I asked him if everything was okay and he became more agitated. I stopped responding to the passenger while he continued yelling about how he was a good Christian, how I was a devil worshipper, and some other menacing things. I was concerned for my safety on the flight and informed the gate agent immediately and in turn spoke to the supervisor at the gate; they informed me that I need not worry because the passenger was a wheelchair passenger and since we were seated apart on the aircraft he could not continue to harass me.

Immediately on boarding, I notified the FA managing my section of the economy cabin, N, of what had happened in the gate area and she said to not worry. Around 2-3 hours after departure (around 4 AM Doha time), I could see and hear the passenger in the galley area next to my seat (I was in 30C on an A350) talking to the FAs there about me (N and one other). I was vaguely concerned but let it go, figuring they would handle the situation. Around 6-7 hours into the flight, the passenger came over to my seat and said he wanted to talk and apologize. I asked him to not talk to me. He became agitated and then started to threaten me, saying that "I know your seat number, I know your name, I know where you work" and that "something bad's gonna happen to you." I immediately notified an FA and asked to speak to the ISM. After a few minutes, someone named M1 came and said he was the ISM. I explained the situation and the threats, and M1 told me the following: 1) the passenger had faked the wheelchair disability (the original FA, N, concurred and said they had discussed this among the FAs since early on the flight), 2) the passenger had asked the FAs about me and my personal information, but that 3) the passenger was just bluffing, 4) I was not to worry, and 5) they didn't find the situation serious enough to do anything at that point. M1 offered to move me to a different seat, but some FAs said the passenger frequented the aft area (even though he was seated in 27K, far from the aft, I was told), so it would not be a good idea to sit there. M1 offered to move me to the first section of the Y cabin but I refused because I felt safer next to the galley area with FAs instead of without a crew presence in the first section of the Y cabin. I repeated to M1 and the FAs around that the passenger had threatened me, but they did not change their response.

M1 then said that he needed to take his rest and that I should refer to another FA, M2, with any further issues. Around ten hours into the flight, the passenger came over to my seat (within 2-3 feet, <1 meter) and stared me down. I immediately found M2 in the aft galley, who moved me to the front of the Y cabin and said she would notify the captain. She said that if he comes closer to my new seat that only then would they do something, because then "it would become really serious." M2 said that the crew and flight deck are concerned about the passenger because he did not just threaten me but other passengers as well. I stated I was not comfortable in the new seat (16A) because there was no crew presence, but M2 said the other Y cabins were not a good idea to move to. Important to note, when the passenger had come over to my original seat in 30C, there were 2 FAs seated in the crew seats on the right side of the cabin (near 30 HJK). They had not stopped the passenger from crossing over the galley to my seat, even though M1 had said hours earlier that everyone was aware of the situation.

Here's a picture of A350 seating, for reference: https://cdn.seatguru.com/en_US/img/2...irbus_A350.jpg


I think there was a massive failure on the part of QR's staff, but I'd like to hear your thoughts and if I'm simply believing this out of shock. Obviously you can't foresee a threatening passenger (and it's probably too little to divert over verbal threats), but here's what I think they did wrong:
  1. The ground staff at DOH automatically assumed that because he was apparently a "wheelchair passenger" (though the FAs said they realized he was faking soon into the flight) he would not be able to harass or threaten me on the flight and thus dismissed my concerns. I would not have boarded the flight had I known that this was not true and that I would indeed be threatened on the flight. I did not feel safe after the first incident onboard (6-7 hours in, on a 14-15 hour flight) and could not sleep or even close my eyes.
  2. The ISM/FAs should have moved the dangerous passenger to another part of the Y cabin (like the aft), and not me to the front cabin (where was seated, actually).
  3. The passenger did not face any repercussions at JFK for the threats he made against me, even though I asked the FAs to ask the captain to consider bringing security at JFK.
  4. The biggest failure of the FAs was that they continued to entertain the passenger even as it became obvious he was threatening to me and other passengers - for example, laughing (or pretending to) with what he said even after he badgered them for details about me (and continuing to let him hang around the galley area by my seat), or not preventing the passenger from coming to my seat even though he crossed the galley right in front of them. I know QR's customer service is excellent, but I think this is one situation in which they must deviate from the smile-and-(pretend to)-be-happy routine.

I've sent this over to QR, but I'm expecting a canned response from them. What are your thoughts on what happened here? Was I just being too dramatic, or was there cause for concern?
acmys is offline  
Old Feb 5, 2018, 10:50 pm
  #2  
 
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I would have felt very unsafe. The combination of his verbal behaviour and faking the need of a wheelchair would, IMO, have been enough to tie him to his seat with cable ties and hand him over to the police at JFK. Sounds like a potential threat to flight safety.
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Old Feb 5, 2018, 10:52 pm
  #3  
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I'm at all not familiar with how this stuff (law enforcement, for starters) works in Doha or Qatar, so I can't really speak to that. But consider bringing security at JFK? I think that I would have insisted on the NY Port Authority police meeting the plane. The crew would have backed up your allegations, assuming that they have told a story even remotely similar to what actually happened. If there was any hesitation by the crew to request police meeting the plane, I might have used my cell phone on landing to call them myself. They easily would have been at the gate in time.
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Old Feb 5, 2018, 10:57 pm
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Crazy people got to fly places too
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Old Feb 6, 2018, 1:16 am
  #5  
 
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Seems like someone escaped from a looney bin...
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Old Feb 6, 2018, 3:01 am
  #6  
 
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That guy was right about terrorists, though... – You had one on your flight.
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Old Feb 6, 2018, 7:31 am
  #7  
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Originally Posted by ffay005
I would have felt very unsafe. The combination of his verbal behaviour and faking the need of a wheelchair would, IMO, have been enough to tie him to his seat with cable ties and hand him over to the police at JFK. Sounds like a potential threat to flight safety.
I repeatedly asked the crew if there was a security officer on board (I estimate 99% yes on a ME-US flight), but they kept deflecting the question. I wasn't asking for the guy to be tied or anything, just to be seated in the vicinity of someone who could protect me from physical harm.

Originally Posted by Dr. HFH
I'm at all not familiar with how this stuff (law enforcement, for starters) works in Doha or Qatar, so I can't really speak to that. But consider bringing security at JFK? I think that I would have insisted on the NY Port Authority police meeting the plane. The crew would have backed up your allegations, assuming that they have told a story even remotely similar to what actually happened. If there was any hesitation by the crew to request police meeting the plane, I might have used my cell phone on landing to call them myself. They easily would have been at the gate in time.
I had asked for security mainly for my protection exiting the aircraft and JFK. M2 had told me after the second incident the captain had called "security" at JFK, but then an hour before landing, when M2 walked through for landing stuff, she informed me the captain had changed his mind.

At this point they had finally moved the passenger (sometime, maybe 1-2 hours, after I had moved to the front of the Y cabin) to the aft cabin, so I decided that I would just Global Entry the hell out of the terminal instead of having to speak with police, possibly having my name/other information divulged to the threatening passenger, etc.

Originally Posted by JasperT
Seems like someone escaped from a looney bin...
The passenger stated several times that he had spent time in a prominent psychiatric hospital in New York City...apparently where they send people for "just being too talkative"

--

Twitter QR support has said they're investigating and someone will reach out, but is there anything I can/should ask for in particular? To be clear, I'm not asking for a voucher or something, I don't want QR thinking that they can just throw me several hundred dollars and all would be well. A direct response/apology from the crew members and captain?

Should I pursue this outside of QR's channels (i.e., news media)? Maybe forward this to DL and have them run with it ?
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Old Feb 6, 2018, 8:12 am
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Interesting experience. I've never met a US president.
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Old Feb 6, 2018, 8:18 am
  #9  
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Originally Posted by rberk
Interesting experience. I've never met a US president.
You joke, but the passenger was basically treated with the same level of immunity. Wonder if he has some special connection to QR or was flying on pass...
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Old Feb 6, 2018, 8:21 am
  #10  
 
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Originally Posted by acmys
You joke, but the passenger was basically treated with the same level of immunity. Wonder if he has some special connection to QR or was flying on pass...
I'm sorry, I shouldn't make light of what must have been a rather scary experience for you.
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Old Feb 6, 2018, 8:33 am
  #11  
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Originally Posted by rberk
I'm sorry, I shouldn't make light of what must have been a rather scary experience for you.
QR Twitter support has been doing the same thing. I said that I felt "physically unsafe," their response apologizes for the "discomfort" that I went through.
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Old Feb 6, 2018, 9:50 am
  #12  
 
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Disappointing No One Else Stepped In

I was sorry to read about your experience. No one deserves that and I would feel awful if I was in your position.

It is a bit disappointing that no one else got involved. As a white, upper middle class, male I've realized that I can help situations like this one by leveraging society's biases. For example, this person's first impression might be that I am one of his kind. I can lead people to believe things like that more deeply by simply repeating back things like, "I understand you feel..." and trying to get them to hear what they are saying and identify it as, well, difficult. Being aggressive with a person like that will probably lead him to raise his aggression. That said, he sounds mentally ill and in need of treatment, not a flight.
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Old Feb 6, 2018, 12:45 pm
  #13  
 
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I realize that you're asking for constructive comments here, and I don't have one to offer. I have never experienced anything like that. I do not know what an appropriate response from the flight crew should have been. Having said that, you reported this to the appropriate people. They apparently observed it for themselves. I would hope that they would watch out for passenger safety.

But if I had been in your position, I would have spent the entire flight awake and on edge. I would have been extremely concerned for my personal safety. I'm glad that nothing worse happened to you on the flight or in the terminal.
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Old Feb 6, 2018, 4:20 pm
  #14  
 
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Being someone who has dealt with individuals who aren't of the most stablest of minds in my previous career line along with dealing and taking care of a family member with paranoid schizophrenia, the individual you described should not of been allowed to board in my view, any person who acts like that is a liability not only to themselves, but to others around them.One thing that is key in managing people with such disorders is ensuring a calm and open environment, an aircraft does not fulfil that requirement and makes them a 100% worse especially when they are already fixated about something , in this case you ! It sounded like the passenger you described also had schizophrenia or something along those lines. The crew acted poorly and failed to act in due course to prevent and stop harassment to you, luckily the passenger somewhat "behaved himself" in what could be something a whole lot worse in regards to violence. I am not sure how the ground crew could justify such early acts of aggression under the justification he was a "wheelchair passenger" ? On a lighter note, the man you described sounded just like my family member, did he claim he was the messiah of god and then go on to check your toes to ensure you weren't a jew ? If so, i may know him @:-)
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Old Feb 6, 2018, 5:13 pm
  #15  
 
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Originally Posted by ffay005
I would have felt very unsafe. The combination of his verbal behaviour and faking the need of a wheelchair would, IMO, have been enough to tie him to his seat with cable ties and hand him over to the police at JFK. Sounds like a potential threat to flight safety.
The "faking of a wheelchair" is a very common practice among certain nationalities. I'm often on 'miracle flights': 10 are wheel-chaired into the plane, yet everyone can walk just fine upon arrival.

Originally Posted by acmys
I've sent this over to QR, but I'm expecting a canned response from them. What are your thoughts on what happened here? Was I just being too dramatic, or was there cause for concern?
Sorry to hear that you were not satisfied by how the crew dealt with it. I don't see how the crew could've handled this any better. If the passenger is a loonie, then trying to restrain him may just make things worse. People hearing voices and with schizophrenia are unpredictable. I suspect the crew would only try to restrain him if there was no other solution. The proper solution would've to deny boarding and don't let it get this far. Then again, I had a schizophrenic neighbour hearing voices and she could change her composure at a moment's notice: One minute totally losing her sh**, screaming and smashing things and the next calmly explaining to police officers in a lucid manner that she just had her music too loudly as if nothing had happened.
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