Airlines continue to put passengers in the hot seat

Within the next year, airlines will be attempting to make longer flights for passengers more comfortable, preventing passenger blood clots due to sitting for prolonged periods and keeping a closer eye on them at the same time. Too bad this has to come at the expense of a passengers’ privacy.

With the help of the British defense company, Qinetiq, some airlines will be employing new “smart seats” to monitor passenger behavior and to identify passengers that seem overly nervous, as they may be potential terrorists. It would then be the responsibility of the flight crew, not licensed behavior analysts, to assess the situation and determine if the passenger has a fear of flying or is planning to seize controll of the plane.

The seats will contain sensors that will monitor the way in which the passenger shifts their weight. That will, apparently, help the crew determine if they are sleeping, or hatching a plan to take their fellow passengers hostage. The system would be kept out of sight of the passengers so only the flight crew has access to it. It has been admitted that the seat sensors are not intended to make an assessment of a passenger’s mental and physical condition, but rather to point out idiosyncrasies in their behavior. So where does that leave you, the passenger?

If you have managed to fall asleep in your cramped seat, a flight attendant may come around every so often to shake you awake because the sensors “think” that you have been sitting still for too long and are therefore putting yourself at risk of blood clots. They will then ask you to take a walk around the plane to get your blood flowing before you are allowed to sit back down and once again, “relax.” Hopefully, you passed up on that second shot of espresso because if you happen to be overly jittery, you may have flight attendants attempting to restrain you as they have determined you to have diabolical behavior.

Does this mean that the criteria for becoming a flight attendant will now include a mandatory degree in psychology? Even with the correct training, it seems unlikely the system user could discriminate between a terrorist and a nervous passenger. With the airline industry’s current struggles, it should be focusing on attracting new passengers. Knowing their seats contain sensors that could potentially accuse them of being a terrorist seems likely to keep viable passengers away.