Now Boarding at Gate Eight: Mr. Air Rage

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Here's the latest on "air rage": Flight attendants are against it.

Complaining that they are harassed with impunity by passengers who are drunken, disorderly or just plain rude, flight attendants organized a worldwide "day of action" Thursday. The object: to press for tougher laws and more consistent prosecution of flyers like the man Tuesday who forced the return of a Continental Airlines flight when he allegedly threw a can of beer at a flight attendant and bit a pilot on the arm.

According to the organizing International Transport Workers' Federation, an umbrella organization for flight attendant unions, reports of unruly passengers by U.S. air crews are up to 500 last year after just 66 in 1997. Less disruptive "air rage" incidents have increased from 1,132 in 1994 to 5,416 three years ago.

But why? Certainly the union wasn't about to blame it on their service or that of airlines — yet don't delayed flights, bad food and screaming babies make you want to bite the occasional pilot? Instead, put-upon flight attendants are asking for international cooperation to close loopholes to ensure prosecution of air-rage offenders. The union also wants airlines and airport authorities to provide training and restraint equipment, and to introduce coherent security policies that would hopefully act as deterrents.

How's this for a deterrent: Maybe attendants, instead of miming away at that useless pre-flight procedure, could ask passengers to behave — while holding up a parachute.