Gordon S. Jackson: Unruly Airlines—A daring experiment

Gordon S. Jackson

By Gordon S. Jackson

Editor’s note: The following is satire.

Nobody knows how long Unruly Airlines will survive. But this bold entrepreneurial venture in US aviation has already made history. Tapping into the growing market of unruly flyers, who feel hemmed in by rules about mask-wearing, alcohol consumption and other frustrations, a small group of libertarian-minded venture capitalists launched Unruly Airlines out of Denver three weeks ago.

The airline has only six scheduled flights, all to West Coast locations and all promising “the ultimate freedom in flying.”

The company’s CEO, Hank Cortez, said, “You could call us sassy on steroids. Where other airlines timidly object to these so-called ‘unruly passengers,’ even to the point of handing them over to law enforcement, we welcome them. We want their business – and it’s obvious from our packed flights that we’re filling a niche in the domestic market.”

Not everyone welcomes the new airline, though, especially not the FAA. It’s engaged in a series of lawsuits to ground Unruly Airlines, which so far has successfully exploited various legal loopholes to allow it to keep flying.

In keeping with the company’s appeal to lawless and defiant passengers, CEO Cortez said, “These bureaucrats can just get lost; we’ve got the public on our side. We’re serving a much-maligned minority that just wants to enjoy the same benefits of flight as everyone else – but with the freedom on board that only we can offer.”

That freedom allows the airline’s passengers to smoke, even in the restrooms; consume as much complimentary alcohol as they want; and to enjoy freedom from masks. No need either to wear a seat belt or worry about having your seat in an upright position. “As if an upright seat is going to save you in a crash – who are they kidding?” Cortez scoffed.

In true libertarian fashion, weapons are also permitted on board. The safety brochures do ask, however, that passengers unload their guns as a courtesy to their fellow travelers.

Doesn’t this blatant flouting of FAA safety regulations endanger passenger safety? “Absolutely!” said Bonny Simson, a flight attendant on the Denver to Oakland run. “That adds to the appeal of our flights. But to prevent things from getting completely out of hand, and for our own safety, each of our three flight attendants on each flight is certified in mixed martial arts.

“Our passengers know they’re free to have a blast. But they also know we’ll step in if things get completely out of hand.” On the six flights she’s done so far, Simson said she’s had no real problems, except for stopping a few fist fights and having to drag a sleeping drunk out of a restroom.

And the passengers keep coming. Already, all flights on the Denver-LA, Denver-Oakland, and Denver-San Francisco routes are fully booked. As a promotion, the airline is giving 50% discounts to any customer who has been arrested for “what those stodgy fuddy-duddies on the other airlines call ‘unruly behavior,’ ” Cortez said. “We want our customers to feel free to be themselves.”

Representatives for Alaska, Delta and United Airlines all declined to comment on their new competitor. All the FAA would say on the record is that the agency is pursuing every legal channel available to close down the airline.

Chip Gluckstein, a 26-year-old accounts receivable clerk from Portland, another of Unruly Airlines’ destinations, flew to Denver last Wednesday for his mother’s birthday. “It was an absolute thrill; exhilarating, a real adrenaline rush,” he said. “I imagine it was like sky-diving or free-climbing El Capitan in Yosemite,” he added. “The cigar smoke from the woman next to me did bother me, though.”

Gordon S. Jackson is a retired journalism professor, having taught at Whitworth University until 2015, and a former ombudsman for The Spokesman-Review. Among his 17 books are three satirical novels, including “Never Say Moist At Wyndover College,” a critique of censorship in academe.

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