How common are combative occurrences on airlines? You'll probably be surprised:
Bottom Line: It's natural to see all of the recent attention being paid to passenger/crew dust ups and think that suddenly something's started to change. Maybe there's a bout of "airline rage"? Maybe airlines really do hate their customers - or maybe it's just that in a voyeuristic society in which everyone's armed with a camera on the ready, people have been given an idea of how to gain 15 minutes of fame.
Without context if I were to ask someone if combative airline experiences were on the rise or decline how would you answer? How would most answer? Probably not with this...
The FAA records all official in-flight incidents that are reported by either airlines or passengers. As it turns out 2016 marked a 13 year low for issues. According to the FAA there were only 92 issues reported in the United States all of last year. That's down from a peak of 310 incidents in 2004. So what's changed? There was a time in American society when others would attempt to aid in the defusing of a combative situation should it arise. These days many are inclined to rubber neck it. If you can record it for max rubber necking - bonus. Add in a media that more closely resembles tabloid credibility these days & you've got a formula for even the slightest issue being something that's being broadcast in prime time nationally. Now don't get me wrong - some of the accountability by the ability to record conflict can potentially be positive but the recent proliferation of it doesn't strike me as constructive. Not to mention that many people are already nervous flyers and others are potentially under the influence and you have a lot of room for opportunism.
Just as there's no benefit to slowing down to gawk at someone else's misfortune on the road but there is if you witness a tragedy and can assist someone in need...We've arrived in a new attempted era of media driven hype with regard to the airline passenger experience and too many people recording dust ups with crew members are more akin to rubber-neckers than good Samaritans. Don't buy into the hype and remain skeptical of the media driven hype.