Don’t normalize unruly air travel
Just as some Americans began to feel better about travel during the pandemic, airline passengers found they had something else to worry about – other passengers.
The number of rowdy and sometimes violent incidents on board planes is skyrocketing, putting travelers at risk. Federal Aviation Administration officials said as of mid-August they had recorded nearly 3,900 reports of unruly passengers, including about 2,800 related to wearing masks.
So far this year, 682 investigations (more than double the previous record of 310 in 2004) have been completed, and violators have been assessed a record $ 1 million in potential fines.
The Federal Aviation Administration and airline officials say violations range from refusing to wear a mask, throwing suitcases and other items to physical confrontations. In one case, a flight crew member was punched in the face and lost two teeth. In another, a man was fined for fighting and trying to put his head under a flight attendant’s robe. And in several incidents, altercations resulted in hijacked flights.
Combine these skirmishes in the sky with increased incidents of road rage, pugilistic parents during children’s sports games and random and ugly acts of hijacking and other violence in the streets, and you can see the anger in America in 2021. This is not the kind of world we want to live in. Americans need to calm down and, as the Star Tribune The Editorial Board argued last month after a man from Twin Cities was killed in a road rage shootout, we must resist the normalization of violent and aggressive behavior.
Yet, according to flight attendants, threatening behavior, harassment and physical altercations have become normal experiences for cabin crews this summer. Due to the increase in violence, more and more airline crew members are taking self-defense courses to protect themselves and others.
A recent union survey by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA found that 85% of its members had dealt with difficult and sometimes violent passengers in 2021. The survey included 5,000 flight attendants from 30 airlines; more than half of them said they had experienced at least five such incidents, and 17% said they had been involved in an incident that became physical.
The flight attendant survey confirmed that mask compliance, routine safety reminders, flight delays and cancellations were common factors in nasty incidents on board. And they confirmed that alcohol is often involved, prompting some airline staff to urge alcohol bans on flights.
Problems aboard planes have prompted a coalition of aviation unions and industry players to send a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking federal prosecutors to devote more resources to egregious cases.
“Aviation safety is a federal issue that impacts passengers and crew across the country as well as interstate travel; it is not a local issue subject to jurisdictional variations, ”they wrote.
Those who would even think of getting out of control during a theft should consider the dire consequences. Interfering with personnel doing their job on a flight violates federal law. Bad behavior on an airplane can result in substantial fines – up to $ 37,000 per violation. One incident can generate multiple infractions, which can result in even higher fines.
Some airline staff are pushing for even tougher penalties. It’s not a bad idea. Violent and aggressive passengers put others at risk in the air.