The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for more effective enforcement action against unruly passengers in the face of a growing number of serious incidents.
A recent report from IATA records an overall decline in reported incidents from one per 1,205 flights in 2015 to one for every 1,424 flights last year. However, the proportion involving physical aggression or damage to aircraft increased from 11 per cent in 2015 to 12 per cent in 2016. Passengers had to be physically restrained in 169 reported incidents, compared with 113 in 2015.
Tim Colehan, IATA’s Assistant Director of External Affairs, told USA Today that cabin crew could often manage level 1 (verbal) incidents with de-escalation techniques learned in training.
‘[But] we saw an increase in incidents where all other forms of de-escalation had been exhausted and the cabin crew had no other option but to restrain the unruly passenger for the safety of everyone onboard,’ Colehan said.
In Australia, it is a strict liability offence under CAR 256AA for a person in an aircraft to ‘behave in an offensive and disorderly manner’. Under CAR 256(1) it is also a strict liability offence for any person to enter an aircraft while in a state of intoxication.
Incidents can be expensive for the perpetrator. In September, a man who disrupted a domestic Hawaiian Airlines flight to the extent that it had to turn around was ordered to pay nearly $US100,000 in compensation to the airline. According to an Associated Press report, the man was accused of drunkenly threatening his girlfriend, her children, other passenger and crew members, and slapping a flight attendant.