It has happened again. A person became belligerent on a plane, someone turned on her video recorder and the resulting footage showed up online and then, seemingly, everywhere.

I watched the uncomfortable scene because my news feed plays videos automatically. (Note to self: Disable that function.) I cringed at the obscenities; I felt for the other passengers.

The incident occurred Tuesday when a Spirit flight from Houston to Minneapolis made an emergency landing in Rochester, Minn. Spirit’s statement on Wednesday to ABC News said that its primary concern is the safety of its passengers. It also noted the landing was “due to a Guest experiencing a medical emergency. On the ground in Rochester, another passenger became erratic and irate and was removed from the aircraft with the assistance of law enforcement.”

Could it be that two people on that plane were experiencing a medical emergency?

That thought was confirmed by subsequent news reports. The woman, from Sauk Rapids, Minn., reportedly is a veteran who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The Rochester police report indicated she had alcohol on her breath. She was, in fact, brought to a hospital for evaluation and help.

I’m not sure there was anything anyone could have done to prevent the incident. Likewise, once the geyser of frustration and pain started flowing, a tightly packed airplane is not the place to stop it.

But I feel certain of this: Video of the incident should not be airing with her face clearly shown, as it was on the video I saw. (Many news outlets, including the Star Tribune, have blurred her image.)

I understand the impulse to record. Such a situation could escalate, and a video could be useful to law enforcement or prosecutors. But when someone is in the throes of a breakdown — even one that scares fellow passengers — try to share empathy, not raw video footage.


Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.