Spirit Airlines Mini-Riot in Ft. Lauderdale: Mob Psychology in Action

Fisticuffs involving irate passengers broke out at a Florida airport Monday night following the cancellation of multiple Spirit Airlines flights.

Authorities said several people were taken into custody at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after nine flights were canceled, leading to long lines and bubbling tempers, WSVN reported.

Videos posted online show a chaotic scene at the Spirit Airlines terminal as fights broke out. Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies were seen attempting to restore order.

Paul Smith, a passenger at the airport, told WSVN that tensions escalated quickly.

“All of a sudden, one particular flight got canceled, and a mob ensued up here at the front counter, in front of everyone else who had been waiting in line,” he said.

“At that point, the ticket agents couldn’t handle what was going on, so they called in for the police,” added another passenger.

Jose L. Rodriguez captured footage of the incident for Twitter, saying some of the passengers were upset because they were bound for a graduation ceremony, which they would miss due to the canceled flight.


Few things (in routine life) are more upsetting than botched plans at an airport. But are these the emotional reactions of a healthy, well-balanced, morally strong and psychologically serene group of young people?

The incident at Ft. Lauderdale Airport gives us a glimpse of what could be the future. Many of these passengers were reportedly young people, millennials whose veneer of smug self-confidence often masks a profound inability (and even unwillingness) to cope rationally with life’s occasional upsets and disappointments. It’s an example of mob psychology.

Mob psychology happens when people witness the reactions of others and automatically assume that reaction is valid, merely because the majority seems to feel it. Absent from mob psychology is any sense of individuality and objectivity. Instead of thinking, “What’s going on here? Why are these people acting this way? I don’t have to be part of that,” the majority of the group went along for the irrational ride, even though the reaction accomplished nothing and—left unchecked by police—could have led to injury, destruction and even death.

Not to imply there were not legitimate things to be angry about here. If you pay for tickets to get you from one place to another by a particular time, it’s valid to feel there must be a good reason when you’re told that’s not going to happen. Any of us who have flown can get this. Most of us have been through it, but how many of us have started a riot over it?

This incident was reportedly caused by disputes between pilots and the airline. In one sense that’s not the passenger’s problem, and passengers should not have to know about these disputes in a well-run airline. At the same time, how are any of us getting anywhere in the air without the well-being of both pilots and other airline employees and executives? It’s easy to assume that “someone” (meaning: the government) should take care of all this and ensure it all works, but airlines are real-life entities run by real-life people with concerns, opinions, wants and needs, just like any of us. The shrill, unreasoned reaction here suggests an inability (or perhaps unwillingness) on the part of the people reacting to any recognition of external reality. We live in the age of feelings, and this provides more evidence of that fact.

Making matters worse, the solutions to the problems of airlines offered by a pair of commentators – one leftist, one “conservative” – on a recent Fox Business Network show that I watched reveals all that’s wrong with our government and culture, and why you can expect more and more such reactions and incidents in the future. The progressive predictably said there “awwta be a law,” that we need better and more intense government regulation, and that would certainly solve everything. You know, the very government regulation managed by the swamp of Washington DC career politicians and bureaucrats that got us to this point. No surprise there. The “conservative” member of the panel blathered on about how “we’ve got to let markets resolve this,” but, at the same time, “the government’s job is to protect passengers’ rights,” so, in effect, we need “smarter” government regulation to make sure this does not happen again.

So the conservative and the leftist agree: More government regulation is the answer. In one case it will be done by progressive-minded elites, and in the other case it will be done by conservatives who say they’re acting on behalf of “the free market”. But it’s the same. Nothing offered by either side about deregulating the airlines and airports so market forces can ensure the demands of customers, airlines and pilots are more efficiently met. No debate at all, really.

Those poor screaming, mob-oriented young people at the Spirit Airlines counter sure do have things to be angry about. But it’s not what they think. They’re inheriting a world governed by the same mentalities who taught them to think and know with their feelings, and with their feelings alone. Not a pretty picture!

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