Speaking Up About Airplane Issues

Q: My question: Is it helpful to speak up about something that doesn’t look or sound right? Is it even possible that a passenger could discover something the crew doesn’t know about?

Customers pass along concerns like this all the time. Never once have I known a pilot to sneer or mock anybody’s well-intentioned query. The only time crewmembers take offense is when it’s done arrogantly, such as when a guy pokes his nose into the cockpit and mumbles, “Hey, your tire’s flat,” and then walks off. (Of course, the tire is not flat.) It’s never happened to me, but I’ve heard of instances where a passenger discovered a minor mechanical discrepancy. Usually it’s just a missing rivet or some such, but always the information is appreciated.


This Q&A is part of a collection that originally appeared on Salon.com. Patrick Smith, 38, is an erstwhile airline pilot, retired punk rocker and air travel columnist. His book, Ask the Pilot (Riverhead) was voted “Best Travel Book of 2004” by Amazon.com. Patrick has traveled to more than 55 countries and always asks for a window seat. He lives near Boston.