Unruly passengers on the rise

The International Aviation Transport Association (IATA) reports the number of unruly passenger incidents increased in 2022. IATA calls for more states to take the necessary authority to prosecute passengers under Montreal Protocol 2014 (MP14), and for greater crew de-escalation training.  

Analysis illustrates that the number of unruly passenger events changed from one in every 835 flights in 2021, to one in 568 flights in 2022. The most common categorisations of incidents include non-compliance, verbal abuse, and intoxication.

“The increasing trend of unruly passenger incidents is worrying. Passengers and crew are entitled to a safe and hassle-free experience onboard. For that, passengers must comply with crew instructions. While our professional crews are well trained to manage unruly passenger scenarios, it is unacceptable that rules in place for everyone’s safety are disobeyed by a small but persistent minority of passengers. There is no excuse for not following the instructions of the crew,” said Conrad Clifford, deputy director general at IATA.

Physical abuse incidents remain very rare, but these had an alarming increase of 61% over 2021, occurring once every 17,200 flights.

Non-compliance incidents initially fell after the mask mandates were removed on most flights. Their frequency however began to rise throughout 2022, ending in a 37% year-on-year (YoY) upside compared to 2021.

The most reported non-compliance events were:

  • Smoking of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vapes and puff devices in the cabin or lavatories
  • Failure to fasten seatbelts when instructed
  • Exceeding the carry-on baggage allowance or failing to store baggage when required
  • Consumption of own alcohol onboard

A two part ‘zero-tolerance’ strategy is in place for passenger unruly behaviour. The first part includes a regulatory approach to ensure governments have the necessary legal authority to prosecute unruly passengers, regardless of their state of origin. Then to have a range of enforcement measures to reflect the severity of the incident.

These powers exist in the Montreal Protocol 2014 (MP14) and IATA is urging all states to ratify this as soon as possible. To date, some 45 nations comprising 33% of international passenger traffic have ratified MP14.

The second part includes guidance to prevent and de-escalate incidents. The guidance section will include sharing best practices, containing training, for crew to de-escalate incidents when they occur.

Additionally, collaboration with industry partners on the ground, such as airports, bars and restaurants and duty-free shops, to include campaigns on the consequences of unruly behaviour onboard.

“No one wants to stop people having a good time when they go on holiday. But we all have a responsibility to behave with respect for other passengers and the crew. For the sake of the majority, we make no apology for seeking to crack down on the bad behaviour of a tiny number of travellers who can make a flight very uncomfortable for everyone else,” said Clifford.

Infographic/image accredited to IATA

Author: FTN Editor

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