Washington – Although the rate of passenger violence reported on commercial airlines has declined since the start of the year, it remains too high, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
According to agency statistics updated on September 28, the FAA has recorded 4,498 reports of unruly passenger behavior since January 1, including 3,274 incidents resulting from hostility to the federal mask mandate linked to the pandemic. of COVID-19.
A statement from the agency maintains that a zero tolerance policy launched earlier this year and various public service announcements have helped to improve the situation. Still, the FAA notes that although, for the week ending September 19, the reported rate of 6.2 unruly passenger incidents per 10,000 flights is about half the rate at the end of March, it is still about twice as high. than the rate reported at the end of 2020.
A September 23 hearing conducted by the House aviation subcommittee focused on the causes of unruly passenger behavior, its effects on the safety of passengers and crew, and law enforcement prohibiting such behavior. Fines can range up to $ 37,000 per violation for unruly passenger cases, according to the FAA, with a single incident leading to multiple violations.
Sara Nelson, International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, told the hearing that “combative, abusive, provocative and violent behavior on our planes and at our airports” looms as a threat for flight attendants, who she called “eyes all over the plane for threats to flight safety”.
In the event of an emergency procedure, said Nelson, “there is no time to waste in preparing the cabin and saving lives. The safety of every passenger and crew on board is threatened when our duties are interrupted or unnecessary distractions arise. “
Nelson cited a recent AFA survey of nearly 5,000 flight attendants representing 30 airlines. The results show that 85% of those surveyed encountered unruly passenger behavior in the first half of 2021. Testimony from Christopher Bidwell, senior vice president of security for Airports Council International – North America, included recommendations such as instructing airline boarding officers to be extremely vigilant for signs of unruly behavior, advising them to deny boarding to those suspected of being intoxicated and to alert law enforcement of the airport.
In a press release, the representative of the subcommittee, Representative Garret Graves (R-LA), said it was important to understand the magnitude of the unruly passenger data to avoid vilifying the flight experience. overall. Noting that more than 350 million passengers have flown this year, Graves said, “It’s like comparing the population of New Roads, Louisiana – a city that I represent and that you should all visit – to the people of New Roads, Louisiana. entire United States. Thus, the vast majority of thefts occur without these types of “air rage” incidents.
In his remarks, committee chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) urged cooperation between the aviation industry and state and federal authorities to help curb the problem.
“While I am relieved that people have started to return to the sky, we need to remain vigilant to ensure their journey is safe,” DeFazio said. “This includes doing what we can to quell this alarming increase in belligerent behavior. The main solution is simple: Passengers must comply with federal and airline face mask requirements and show kindness and respect to crews and fellow passengers. In the meantime, I look forward to working with my colleagues to see what we can do to support those on the front lines. “