As air travel recovers from the pandemic, bad behavior among airline passengers has continued to rise, a new study has found.
A new analysis by the International Air Transport Association. shows that incidents involving unruly passengers on aircraft increased by 47% from 2021 to 2022, from one incident per 835 flights to one incident per 568 flights.
While incidents of physical violence often get the most attention, the most common types of incidents were “insubordination, verbal abuse and intoxication,” the report said. Other misdemeanors included bringing outside alcoholic beverages into the cabin, not wearing a seatbelt and packing too much luggage.
Incidents of physical violence occurred on 1 in every 17,200 flights, a small proportion but still a 61% increase from the previous year. For comparison, according to the National Weather Service, the lifetime probability of being struck by lightning is 1 in 15,300.
The increase in incidents comes as the Federal Aviation Administration issued a zero-tolerance order against unruly behavior in 2021. Instead of receiving warnings or counseling, violators began facing prosecution or fines of up to $35,000. Airlines also have the authority to ban unruly passengers from flying on their carrier in the future.
“Passengers and crew have the right to a safe and hassle-free onboard experience,” said IATA Deputy Director General Conrad Clifford. “While our professional crews are well trained to manage unruly passenger scenarios, there is no excuse for not following crew instructions.”
The FAA said in April it had referred 250 unruly passenger cases to the FBI for possible prosecution, including in March when a man tried to stab a flight attendant with a broken spoon.
FAA numbers showed that about two-thirds of reports of unruly passengers involved face masks until April 2022, when a federal judge struck down masking requirements on airplanes and public transportation.
Incidents of passengers not complying with flight crew requirements, the most common category in 2022, increased by 37% compared to 2021 and included smoking and vaping in toilets, “failing to fasten seat belts when instructed”, carrying or not carrying too much luggage : keep it and consumption of outside alcohol on board, according to IATA.
The data comes from more than 20,000 reports submitted by nearly 40 airlines.
“Nobody wants to stop people from having a good time on vacation, but we all have a responsibility to treat other passengers and crew with respect,” Clifford said.