Coercion versus Care

by Maria on August 12, 2023

I was recently in Stansted Airport, queueing in a low-ceilinged, quasi-temporary structure to enter the departure area for a Ryanair flight. There were two queues; the ‘priority queue’ which passengers had paid extra to join, and the ordinary one, but just one airport employee covering both, toggling stressfully between two irritated groups. Each time she switched, she left a line of people to wait. As I neared the front of the ordinary queue, she told a man with a wheelie case that he’d have to pay extra as his bag was too big. He objected and put it into the measuring frame. It fit easily, but the check-in woman refused to accept this, and demanded an extra £40. The man objected again and asked why the rules weren’t being followed, but ultimately paid up as he had no choice. He was clearly upset, but never raised his voice, used insulting or abusive language or made threatening gestures. He simply didn’t supply the meekness the very stressed out airport employee desired. As he moved into the boarding area, she called after him that she could have him taken off the plane, but it was very full and noisy, and he either ignored this or didn’t hear it and took a seat near the door. Both lines were now even longer, and she was dealing with the 200-odd passengers alone.

While dealing with the next passenger, and then me and the two women behind me, she began to cry. She carried on working but must have pressed a button for help, because a few minutes later, several security guards arrived. Within minutes, five or six security men arrived. The woman pointed to the passenger who had upset her, but there were too many people in between for her to directly identify him. Later still, another employee arrived to relieve her and check the rest of the passengers through. The two women and I who had witnessed the incident all sat on a window sill near the check-through desk the security guards were now clustered at, as we were worried the man would be wrongly denied boarding. When we heard the guards say they would go and find the man, we approached them to say we had seen the incident from the front of the queue and that it may have been different from what they’d been told.

We were all white and middle-aged, and while we’d been quite voluble amongst ourselves, we were each careful to speak in soft, unthreatening and really quite feminised ways to the young rent-a-cops who now outnumbered the passport and ticket-checker by a ratio of five or six to one. The main guard thanked us but didn’t ask any follow-up questions, and we stayed nearby, implicitly ready to intervene. In the noisy disarray of the boarding area, the passenger managed to be one of the first onto the plane. As we boarded, a couple more security guards had joined the initial cluster and moved onto the tarmac, so there were now seven or eight. Walking past, we heard them say the man was already on the plane. They seemed to have decided it wasn’t worth the effort to have him taken off. As I climbed the steps of the plane, it was striking just how many security guards were now milling aimlessly around, compared to the lone and stressed out employee who’d summoned them in the first place.

A tiny and inadequate amount of resources was routinely being put into the core work of the airport and airline; getting passengers safely and efficiently onto the plane. It was left to a single employee working in a determinedly difficult and unpleasant situation – designed to extract more money from passengers for a ‘premium’ service. She was operating in a work culture that clearly despises the customers and pressures employees to squeeze them for yet more money when they can be claimed to have disobeyed luggage rules. She was clearly overwhelmed by the task, and left to deal with the emotional as well as practical consequences of Ryanair and Stansted’s decisions. I’m not surprised that a merely irritated and resistant passenger was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Her only agency in the situation, and the only acceptable reason to request help, was to cast the passenger as abusive or even dangerous. She couldn’t ask for help to do her actual job, difficult or near-impossible thought it was. It was designed to be that way. However, she could press an alarm button that brought security men almost immediately to deal with a situation wholly produced by her impossible working conditions.

The resources the airline and airport put into care, that is, providing the actual service they’d been paid for, were purposely minimal. The resources available for coercion, that is, the enforcement of compliance by the people ostensibly in receipt of the service, outweighed those for care by at least five to one, going on the number of security guards who turned up. If even one more person had been assigned to check through the two lines of passengers, there would have been no upset employee, no unfair threats to remove a passenger from a flight, and no further delay to all the passengers while the situation was resolved. But the systemic resourcing decisions of Stansted and Ryanair clearly prioritised coercion over care, even when minimal care standards weren’t met, resulting in a disturbance to everyone. I think the widespread coercion to care ration really is as simple as there being person to provide a dismally inadequate service, and between five and seven people to intervene forcefully to ensure customer compliance when the service broke down.

And this is an airport, not a detention centre, welfare office or academy school. Even in this setting where passengers are paying customers, a passenger who complies outwardly with the arbitrary application of fines, but whose emotional affect is not sufficiently compliant, risks serious punishment. Objection or insolence can be unacceptable, depending on the emotional state of the airport staff. Compliance isn’t sufficient. Something closer to obeisance is advisable, just to be on the safe side. The airport staff member was powerless to improve her working situation. She will likely have been close to minimum wage, and certainly on a precarious, arms-length contract. The only power she had was to kick down, and she did. You don’t have to be Foucault to notice the chronically stressful and highly charged situation is contrived to elicit the kind of unpredictable emotional response from the employee that it did. The arbitrariness and unpredictability of near-powerless enforcers is a key part of how order is maintained with low manpower. These situations encourage everyone nearby to ‘mind their own business’, i.e. ignore what’s happening or risk being labelled disruptive themselves. There is a strong interest of other passengers not simply to comply and ignore, but to blame the person who’s been singled out.

The only thing that (may have) saved the passenger from being kicked off the flight and added to a watchlist for the crime of speaking in an unpleasing tone, was that three other passengers decided to very gently intervene. Having gone through to the boarding area I and the two other women – strangers to each other – each positioned ourselves close to the desk where we could keep an eye on the security guards. Then, when they appeared undecided about what to do, we gently approached to ask if they would like to know more about the incident. At each stage, and without ever talking tactics, we played the nice-white-lady card of inoffensively suggesting things had not been quite as clear-cut as presented. We offered our names if any further inquiries were to happen, subtly making it clear that we might persevere. Above all, we offered, suggested and did not proclaim. We didn’t confront, object or contradict. We didn’t even describe the incident as we’d seen it, just offered to, with the implication that the half dozen young guys now all fired up and unsure of what to do must of course be the right people to adjudicate it. That removed just enough heat and momentum for the situation to gradually deflate in an entropic pattern of clumps of security guys standing around talking each other out of disrupting the plane’s departure. It’s sickening, really, but without ever making a tactical plan, without even raising a complicit eyebrow, each woman knew almost to a cellular level the precise method of confusion and de-escalation the situation required.

The overwhelmed airport employee never got the support she needed to do her job well, though perhaps at least she felt that when she called for the cavalry it would come running. As far as anyone official was concerned, the incident probably just proved you need more security guys than counter-staff. For some deeply human reason, the systems we currently build are unquenchingly thirsty for coercive resources to punish tiny acts of resistance to the inadequate and failing services they provide. One extra person working to care for passengers would negate the need for half a dozen punishers kept mostly on standby, but that doesn’t even seem to be an option the airport and airline consider. This small incident seems emblematic of so much of life in the UK, and perhaps more broadly.

It’s irrational and costly, and spreading everywhere, this 4:1 or 5:1 ratio of coercion to care. Witness the recent decision of a US school district to replace libraries with ‘discipline centers’, or the UK Tory politician Robert Jenrick’s purely sadistic instruction for a child refugee centre to paint over the cartoons on the wall. Or indeed, the appetite of the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions, to target £8 billion in ‘fraud’, when £20-30 billion of welfare that people need and deserve goes unpaid each year because its systems are so user-hostile. There’s something pathological about how coercion sucks in vast resources when care is more economical, not to mention humane, but is nonetheless starved and derided. This pattern is so obvious and ubiquitous that you’ll have noticed it too. I point it out because although it is everywhere, and supported by both UK political parties, it is not sensible, and nor is it inevitable.



Ivo 08.12.23 at 11:19 am


Tom Slee 08.12.23 at 12:54 pm

I have just booked my first EasyJet flight out of Luton, so this account feels very relevant. Thank you for posting it.

I do wonder about whether it is irrational though. Socially irrational, yes. But I would guess the security is paid for by the airport and not by the airlines. The airlines would insist they are price takers and have no option but to run as cheaply as possible, and to add staff would be to hand business to their competitors. Perhaps this is a job for the airport? To set standards that airlines must meet to operate out of this location?


Martin 08.12.23 at 1:30 pm

It all starts with Ryanair being an odious company. I’ve boycotted them for years, ever since they charged me €50 for the privilege of checking in at the airport. Airline passengers keep saying (in surveys etc) that they value things like leg room, customer service, convenience, pleasant airport facilities, etc., and then keep booking flights with the cheapest airline regardless of any of that. Revealed preferences…


engels 08.12.23 at 1:32 pm

Great post. As someone who regularly infuriates people by politely disagreeing with them this happens to me a lot. A couple of years ago I was physically ejected by bouncers from a nightclub in Hungary for arguing with the barman (who had definitely shortchanged me) about my change.


engels 08.12.23 at 1:35 pm

Another time I can remember having security called on me in Tesco for arguing with the pharmacist.


Neville Morley 08.12.23 at 1:43 pm

On the basis that the business model is never just cost-cutting, but always cost-cutting and then offering the opportunity to pay extra to get something resembling the previous level of service, how long until passengers are offered the chance to buy ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ cards to show to the security people, or to hire their own escort?


Scott P. 08.12.23 at 1:55 pm

Airline passengers keep saying (in surveys etc) that they value things like leg room, customer service, convenience, pleasant airport facilities, etc., and then keep booking flights with the cheapest airline regardless of any of that. Revealed preferences…

This is unfair. I would like more legroom. Yet on my last Transatlantic flight, the privilege of choosing my own seat as opposed to random assignment was 20% of the fair for each leg of the flight. Note that paying for that doesn’t get me any actual legroom, just a (potential) choice of aisle vs. window, to which I am relatively indifferent. I could have paid for the ‘extra legroom’ exit aisle, but that would cost me 40% of the round-trip flight each way, a price I simply couldn’t afford, and even that means no personal item with me and no place to put my laptop to work. Plus, increasing my ticket cost by 80% seems outrageous when what I really want is the amount of legroom that was standard 20 years ago — I don’t need 6 feet.

If ketchup packets at McDonald’s cost $10 each, and I choose not to buy one, that’s not a ‘revealed preference’ that I don’t want ketchup at McDonalds, just that I refuse to be gouged.


Maria 08.12.23 at 2:10 pm

I think also the mismatch between what passengers want and what economists term revealed preferences is (at the very least) sharpened by the fact that in this case the airport service is only indirectly paid for by the passengers – the real customer of the security guys and desk-people’s employer is the airline, not the passengers. And the nature of financial relationship between the airline and airport distorts the ability for signals to get through.

Obv there’s a whole load of other mismatches between what offer and what people want. But it’s probably just as useful to say – given consolidation and often monopolies on routes, including the one I was one – that air passengers have about as much choice as cable customers in the US, and are equally to blame for the shitty service they receive from providers who take advantage of local monopolies to be generally awful.


oldster 08.12.23 at 3:26 pm

I wholeheartedly agree with all of the substantive points you make — you are accurately identifying a deep pathology that infects our current system.
I disagree with a less important, indeed trivial and tedious, point of math, namely the ratio of “carers” to “coercers” that can be inferred from the episode you relate.
The 5-7 guards that you saw are not likely tasked with supporting only the one clerk at the head of your line. It’s more likely that they are made available, at need, to all the other clerks in the airport — dozens or hundreds, depending on how many gates and check-in areas there are. If there are 200 other such overworked check-in clerks throughout the airport, we cannot infer that there are 1000-1400 guards held in reserve. It’s probably just the same 5-7 guys, or maybe another 5, who are responsible for all 201 check-in sites.
So the ratio is likely to be something more like 200 “carers” to 10 “coercers”, i.e. 20 to 1 rather than 1 to 5, simply because the “carers” work all the time, and the “coercers” are set to work rarely.
Sorry to be tedious. Everything else that you say — and all of the important things — sound right to me, and I’m grateful to you for saying them.


Kenny Easwaran 08.12.23 at 4:30 pm

I’m not sure that the imbalance in the types of employee is quite as large as suggested. There is presumably one gate agent for every flight, but we don’t know how many boarding areas are being “served” by the 5 security agents that are on call. I wonder how spread thin the airport would be if a second gate agent pressed their button at the same time.


Stephen 08.12.23 at 4:45 pm

A cased of justified coercion involving Ryanair. A friend of mine was intending to return home just before Christmas, Stansted (London) to Derry via Ryanair. A Turkish freighter made a mess of take-off, took down a power line supplying the airport and left debris all over the runway. Airport, obviously, closed. All other airlines laid on transport for their passengers to other London airports: not bloody Ryanair. Their staff retreated from their desk to an office upstairs. Crowd of disappointed passengers, some with drink taken, started chanting “Derry, Derry” and banging furniture on the floor. Police officer arrived, went upstairs, demanded than Ryanair did something. Manager tried to refuse.
In that case, said the policeman, I will arrest you for causing a breach of the peace.
What breach?
The breach of the peace that will occur in a couple of minutes unless you go downstairs, talk to the passengers and organise transport for them.
Manager folded.

Like many people, I have my own horror story about Air Murphy, but that’s for another time.


sylvainsylvain 08.12.23 at 4:58 pm

I think the relevant point here, is that at that moment, there were plenty of security personnel, and one gate agent. One person doing the work necessary for the flight to take off, and several to enforce arbitrary rules. Which is clearly ridiculous.

Pondering as to the potential problems of multiple gates needing security, while entertaining, MISSES THE ENTIRE POINT. I know we like to get into ‘online mode’ and point out the potential mistakes, errors, or how our insight is Exceedingly Valuable. But please, let’s try to remain practical; this is a sign that the entire business model these days is utterly flawed. Can we focus on how it can be fixed?

Or is that why we end up like a dog chasing its own tail? We know it can’t be fixed by the likes of us, so we poke holes. To feel like we DO have some power. Over something.


J, not that one 08.12.23 at 5:12 pm

Great piece, Maria.

I wonder if there is a tendency to think of something like an airport as consisting of people who know the rules and follow them, and people who look out for the few rule-breakers and discipline them. This leaves out the actual customers, who are often confused about rules that aren’t so clear-cut or fair. But it also leaves out the workers who actually carry out the activity that goes on there. (People don’t get on the plane because they’ve internalized rules about what order to board, and so on. . . . Obviously.)

Those people aren’t robots. They have feelings. (It seems inevitable to say I’m not suggesting robots would be better. We worry usually about robots being too rigid in enforcing rules. Maybe we should worry that an LLM would be trained on exasperated, overworked people.)


Chetan Murthy 08.12.23 at 5:33 pm

Scott P.: um, I think you’ve just demonstrated what the OP was pointing out — you’re unwilling to pay more money for that extra legroom, right? That the amount being demanded is pretty steep doesn’t change things, really. We all have our opinions about what a fair price is for various products we purchase, but at the end of the day, our revealed preferences are a way of understanding which features, which products, we’re willing to pay for, and how much we’re willing to pay.

Full disclosure: I haven’t flown for pleasure in many, many years, nor for work in well over a decade, and pretty much only for family medical emergencies. It’s mostly because of climate change, but also a bit because “jesus, flying is a trial on the best of days, and torture the rest of the time.” So I sort of agree with you, that for the prices being demanded, it’s just not worth it. My revealed preference is that I’d rather keep the money, and not travel.


Maria 08.12.23 at 5:54 pm

Ha! Kenny and Oldster, that’s an interesting point. I think the respective resources to care v coercion are still fundamentally imbalanced, but it’s true that we don’t know the absolute numbers of staffing to each at Stansted.

Stephen, that is the single best Ryanair story I’ve ever heard. Bravo.


Chetan Murthy 08.12.23 at 5:55 pm

Maria, this is a little off-topic, but …. I remember about 20yr ago, I was in Raleigh, North Carolina for work, and sitting in the airport waiting for my flight back home. I was listening to music on my headphones, and heard some announcement come over the intercom (but indistinctly, as I didn’t remove my earbuds). Around the same time, some policemen came by, trailing a drug-sniffing dog. Of course, even gaining admittance to the airport requires being willing to consent to an invasive body search, too. And I thought to myself:

When authoritarianism comes to America, it will look like this[1]: we are all being trained in how to be good little serfs by our time spent in this no-rights zone, where our rights can be removed for arbitrary reasons, with no ability to appeal and instant application of possibly-deadly force for no reason whatsoever. For white people, that is. For Black people, it’s far, far worse already, and I don’t mean to minimize what they experience. Rather, white people think that they’re living in a free country, but they willingly enter these distinctly unfree zones — some of them, quite often.

[1] Or at least, it’ll start off looking like this.


Doctor Science 08.12.23 at 6:00 pm

Even given Kenny & oldster’s very valid points about what the real carer:coercer ration probably is at the airport, Maria at least will have noticed that one dynamic here is the gendered nature of the work. Caring is “women’s work”, coercing is “men’s work”, regardless of who is doing it–and in this particular instance, really crucial work was done by the 3 unpaid women, who were all highly skilled at reading social situations and de-escalation.

But though that work was very valuable in both human and economic terms, I can’t think of any way to economically reward it that wouldn’t pull it into the cycle of enshittification that’s seized everyone else’s work in this story.


Chetan Murthy 08.12.23 at 6:00 pm

Stephen: it’s a great story! Reading it, and then looking back at Maria’s OP, I wondered: was one difference that in your story, it was a policeman, and in hers, it was security guards ? The former, having allegiance and responsibility to public authorities, where the latter are basically rent-a-cops? That’s a different but related problem: the offloading of police power to unaccountable corporations without any real checks-and-balances.

Though, in the US the TSA (the guys who run the security lines, scanners, body searches) are …. well, they’re not exactly trained police, so have some of the same problems as rent-a-cops. And of course, even the police are only barely accountable on the best of days.


craig fritch 08.12.23 at 6:24 pm

As an elementary schoolteacher I’ve long figured that firefighters are fewer in number, so its ;ess financially onerous to keep them happy than the many teachers.
In the airplane instance I’d say that those half dozen guards are way outnumbered by the many checkin attendants – they are called as needed to many places.


afeman 08.12.23 at 6:58 pm

Great post. The relative resources devoted to one to the exclusion of the other has been pretty central to the critique in police defunding. I often think of an elderly neighbor in the apartment across the hall. One evening some friends of his came calling and knocked on my door, asking if I had seen him, since they hadn’t had contact with him. They were moved to call in a wellness check, which turned out to consist of two cops, fully equipped with black uniforms and vests (one with a thin blue line morale patch). They were about to break the door down in the absence of a response from the guy, until we managed to get the very not-nosy landlord to come down to open it. As it turned out, his friends were from AA, and he was recently divorced, terminally ill, and isolating himself, having fallen off the wagon. Some weeks later I came home to a crowd of uniforms; he had died. For some reason this required as many police officers as EMTs.


oldster 08.12.23 at 8:32 pm

Sylvainsylvain —
I am sorry to have offended you. I agree with you that determining the precise ratio of carers to coercers was not the main point of Maria’s excellent post, and indeed I went out of my way to anticipate that fact in my comment.
I tried to express my comment in a soft and unthreatening tone, displaying obeisance to the CT house rules, since I am well aware that at any moment the CT collective could call out the coercers.
In light of your reaction, I will try to make future interventions even more gentle and inoffensive.


hix 08.12.23 at 9:26 pm

The distinction is a bit odd in this case since both are strongly in the rule enforcement, thus coercion camp, one is just the less violent part.


JPL 08.13.23 at 12:21 am

There is a possible alternative interpretation of this incident you describe so elegantly. The idea that coercion was needed to enforce the rules, including the rules of “meekness”, was not, I would propose, involved in the gate agent’s decision to call the security guards, because no valid reason for enforcement had yet been established, since the passenger had neither gone ahead without paying the fee, nor caused a disturbance, and so any coercion would not have been justified. Rather, my guess is that the gate agent’s reason for summoning the security was the desire to punish, a manifestation of the automatic “lashing out” response of the negative emotion of anger. The anger, understandable under the stressful conditions, seemed to evolve after the man had proceeded to the boarding area, and perhaps was a response not so much to the lack of obeisance, but to the fact that the man had shown her to have been wrong about the size of the bag, and her realization that she had made a mistake by not measuring it first; and, her self-acknowledgement that she had charged the man the fee for no good reason. Her apparently desultory response when asked to identify the offender might be an indicator of this hypothesis.

The big cultural level problem I would see here is the notion of punishment and its acceptance as a valid tool in an ethical context. I would like to suggest, rather, that the idea of punishment as a consequence of violation of ethical principles (and in this case no violation of ethical principles actually occurred) is not a legitimate part of any ethical system, since a coherent ethical system could not license the intentional infliction of harm as a supposed necessary condition for the continued general adherence to the system. (It’s not like the surgeon’s incision; and the notion ‘punishment’ needs to be distinguished from that of ‘proactive disincentive’ as a reason.) Other than as a response to anger, another illegitimate and irrelevant application of the desire to punish is in response to people who present as having made life-decisions that an ethical agent disapproves of, as in the cases you mention in the last paragraph, and thus somehow “deserve” negative treatment. Instead of “crime and punishment”, a better slogan would be “crime and restoration” (or restitution, correction, compensation, etc.) Anger, the source of the “desire to punish” response, is a negative emotion that can be completely eliminated from one’s emotional repertoire, if one wants to (and I’m pretty sure there will be nobody here (unless Martha Nussbaum is lurking) who will agree with me on that one).

Also, the operative element in the “nice-white-lady card” is the niceness, another, more effective, cultural ethical norm. The general points you make about the “coercion-care” ratio remain valid, as does the assessment of Ryanair reflected in Stephen’s expression above, “not bloody Ryanair”.


Scott P. 08.13.23 at 2:31 am

Scott P.: um, I think you’ve just demonstrated what the OP was pointing out — you’re unwilling to pay more money for that extra legroom, right? That the amount being demanded is pretty steep doesn’t change things, really.

It doesn’t? I have a kitten here that I’ll drown if you don’t give me $1 billion (Dr. Evil gesture). No? I guess you’ve revealed you’re in favor of drowning kittens then. ;-)


kim yi dionne 08.13.23 at 4:40 pm

Not related to airlines but related to your broader argument about coercion v. care, I highly recommend Paul Farmer’s last book, Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History. The title reads as if it’s about history and pandemics (and of course it is), but the core argument is about how we seek control when we should have instead provided care.


David in Tokyo 08.13.23 at 10:20 pm

Since nastywoman seems to be on vacation, allow me to point out that given that flying is the single most environmentally dammaging thing an individual can do, you can solve both the problem of obnoxious airline companies and your guilt at taking that flight by


not taking the damn flight. Obviously.

Besides, if you don’t not take that flight, global boiling really will kill all the kittens.

(I missed my once-every-5-years Tokyo-Boston-Tokyo flight, and although there are still some folks of my parents’ period in the (gated, Beacon Hill!!!) neighborhood whom I’d like to check in on, it sounds like the obnoxiousness of airline flight is getting enough worse that I really am too old for it.)


JakeB 08.14.23 at 3:36 am

Another great post, Maria. Thank you.

@Chetan’s 6 p.m. — your observation offers yet another iteration of the kind of problems the post brings up — TSA employees are among the worst-paid in the entire federal government, and have no union protection. Here we have people whose jobs, if done poorly, can lead to massive loss of life, and who are treated nearly as badly as that employee that Maria mentioned, and who are likely to have exactly the same urge to punch down as was mentioned above.


engels 08.14.23 at 12:36 pm

you can solve both the problem of obnoxious airline companies and your guilt at taking that flight by (DRUMROLL!@!!!) not taking the damn flight



Trader Joe 08.14.23 at 7:08 pm

If I had £40 for every time I had been hassled over a bag or boarding with the wrong group I could probably buy RyanAir. Its not a problem that is any longer exclusive to the discount carriers and one which has spread like a bad virus to most of the so called Full Service carriers as well.

The thing is, apropos of the revealed preferences, we all let them do this. All of these flights whether Discount or Full Service run quite full most of the time which says demand exceeds supply and accordingly raising the price of the service is the correct economic choice.

Most of my air travel is not self-funded so I’d far rather all of these add-ons be embedded within the ticket and remove all of the incentives for employees to have to enforce relatively arbitrary rules – that by itself would improve air-travel. That said all evidence points to people preferring to be nickled-and-dimed and so I don’t think this genie is going back in the bottle.

Thanks Maria for an observant piece on both why and the what of these situations.


Kaveh 08.15.23 at 1:50 am

This is pretty much the problem we have with public transit in Chicago: shortage of bus and train drivers means infrequent service means overcrowded trains/buses on some routes, fewer passengers on others, means higher proportion of disruptive passengers. Former mayor’s solution was rent-a-cops or ‘ambassadors’ who stand around doing nothing while people smoke. Of course disruptive passengers are part of what’s reducing transit ridership, but reduced and unpredictable service is also a part, and it’s a penny-wise-pound-foolish approach to rely too much on coercion.


Kristoffer 08.15.23 at 6:50 am

I’ve noticed this downward spiral when it comes to flying.

Step 1: Airlines wanted to make more money so they started charging for check in luggage.
Step 2: Travellers wanted to pay the advertised price for their tickets, without all the extras, so they switched to carry-on luggage only. (I know me and my family did)
Step 3: The boarding now takes forever and there isn’t enough space in the ver head compartments, so airlines invent ever more absurd rules on carry-on luggage

I’ve been in boarding lines where a steward with a clicker counter walks down the line and then says “OK, that’s the maximum carry-on capacity. Everyone else needs to check their bags!”

At the same time leg room is shrinking, free snacks and drinks are going away, flights are constantly delayed (probably because airlines set unrealistic departure times to ensure everyone is waiting at the gate once the plane actually shows up). No wonder air rage is rising.


Forrest Leeson 08.15.23 at 11:24 am

(Pause to remember Neel Kashkari tweeting about the amazingly cheap air-fare he’d scored…)


David Morrice 08.15.23 at 2:42 pm


D from B 08.15.23 at 6:32 pm

airline employee here… i openly argued with my direct supervisor about her treatment of a colleague (by yelling in front of the customer at her for not knowing the procedure in a rare occasion – eg. check-in of weapons, animals, post, dangerous goods…). by the time sup was done with her, colleague was in tears. after that we were called “upstairs” and airport staff manager left us in a room in order to “settle” our diffecences by ourselves. not to mention that she was absolutely not susceptible for any change of hearts (this particular sup was known for her bad treatment of the staff). this left me with “neck pain” and the colleague left company shortly after. i experienced all stages of flying – check-in, boarding, ticketing, inflight, disembarkation…. i’ve seen many failed oportunities to provide care and/or relief not only for a passenger but for a fellow employee. i made friends with passengers who tried to be rude to me (throwing their passport over the counter and asking if i had EU form 261 in his language; after opening his passport i started talking to him in his language which he absolutely didn’t expect – serbian; first he was in shock but everyone – who was at this point staring at me and waiting for my reaction – started laughing). why does it always have to be a fight?


Michael O'Leary 08.16.23 at 1:22 pm

What’s the problem? Ryanair is not in the care business.


KT2 08.17.23 at 2:24 am

Today in nakedcapitalism.
“The Rise of Private Cops: How Not to Tackle Homelessness”
Posted on August 16, 2023 by Yves Smith

“Yves here. Forgive me for expressing my considerable frustration with this article. On the one hand, it does describe a problem that is routinely ignored: they way private police are clearing the homeless out of public spaces, and beating them up while doing so, and the regular cops are not defending the rights of the homeless even when bystanders present evidence the private cops were out of line.”

“We excoriated the absolutely terrible United and fake cop reporting in United Passenger “Removal”: A Reporting and Management Fail.”

(end Yves)

“The Rise of Private Cops: How Not to Tackle Homelessness”
By Sonali Kolhatka

“Shocked by the violence of the security guard’s assault, my husband and I confronted the perpetrator. He responded that hours earlier the victim had allegedly assaulted a woman in the neighborhood. In the seconds before he was attacked, however, I had walked within a few feet of the unhoused man as he muttered to himself in what sounded like a mix of English and a foreign language. The man had been minding his own business.

“In a detailed three-part investigation for Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) in December 2021, Rebecca Ellis examined how businesses have begun paying unknown sums of money to hire private security patrols. According to Ellis, “Private security firms in Oregon are notoriously underregulated, and their employees are required to receive a fraction of the training and oversight as public law enforcement.” She added, “They remain accountable primarily to their clients, not the public.”

“Unless city, state, or federal governments directly address the fact that the rent is too damn high and wages are too damn low, people will continue to lose access to housing and services and find themselves on the receiving end of blows and batons from either private guards or the police, as business owners and wealthier residents look on with approval.” …

I had the “privilege” of seeing private security at a sandstone university in Sydney late ’90’s. Not pretty. Guard numbers and security budgets up since then. Sexual asaults stubornly high.

Perhaps a follow up with sexual assults at universities vs guards.

This week, the only newspaper in Brisbane – Courier Mail – reported;
“The latest National Student Safety Survey indicates that one in twenty students has suffered sexual assault while at university,” Senator Scarr said. “That means thousands of university students in Queensland have been the victims of sexual assault. “The majority never make a complaint.”. 

“State Sovereignty and Private Military and Security Companies in Australia”
[ Scary ]


Thomas P 08.18.23 at 11:04 am

Stephen, so that’s where Sam Vimes moved.


engels 08.18.23 at 1:12 pm

I stopped flying Ryanair a decade ago after they charged me a £100 or something for charging in at the airport. Then I stopped flying altogether about 4 years ago. Would highly recommend both policies to everyone.

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