Alec Baldwin kicked off plane. Are game-playing fliers a safety risk?
Refusal to turn off a cellphone got actor Alec Baldwin kicked off plane on Tuesday. American Airlines, which did the deed, noted his disruptive behavior. Others say there's a reason for the protocol on shutting off 'electronic devices.'
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By contrast, it's a public relations coup for Zynga With Friends, creator of the game Words With Friends. The game is in the news for, apparently, being too fun to stop, even when the voice of authority tries to intervene.Skip to next paragraph
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Baldwin joins a large cast of celebrities who have been kicked off airplanes.
Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong was ousted for refusing to pull up saggy pants on a Southwest Airlines flight. Actor Josh Duhamel refused to turn off a BlackBerry device on US Airways. The list could go on.
Lesser-known passengers sometimes get booted for the same reasons. And like celebrities, they sometimes get away with things that make other passengers wonder. In one publicized case, a man scantily clad in women's underwear flew on US Airways – about the same time another airline made news for ejecting a passenger with saggy pants.
Do celebrities bring a disproportionate amount of trouble on themselves? It's hard to know, because the evidence is anecdotal. But if that's the case, the explanation could range from pompous self-esteem (being too important to listen to an airline employee) to taking a calculated publicity move on the idea that more news about oneself (even of the "bad" variety) is better than less news.
The FAA does track a statistic called "unruly passengers," by the way. This doesn't include all alleged bad behavior, because incidents are reported to the agency only at the discretion of the airlines. Also, airlines report security risks separately to the Transportation Security Administration.
Since 2005, reported unruly passengers have totaled fewer than 200 per year for the industry.
Although many passengers are skeptical that using electronic devices can threaten air safety, some travel experts say the industry has good reason for its protocols on the use of cellphones and similar devices.
Geoff Thomas, editor of Air Transport World magazine, tells an Australian arm of ABC News that glitches appear to be "exceedingly random," but that there's "enough evidence to suggest that it is a problem" that can interfere with aircraft instruments.
IN PICTURES: The wide world of air travel