Flight attendants call for more action against unruly passengers
WASHINGTON – Following harassment of passengers and staff on flights amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, members of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation on Friday to call for the increase in the number of disruptive and unruly air passengers, the causes, the effect on the safety of passengers and crew, and the enforcement of US laws prohibiting such behavior.
The panel at the hearing titled “Disruption in the Skies: The Rise of Air Rage and Its Effects on Workers, Airlines and Airports” heard from staff witnesses, including the AFA International President, Sara Nelson, and American Airlines flight attendant Teddy Andrews.
“Cabin disturbances and failure to follow crew instructions pose a threat to flight safety,” Nelson said at the hearing. “If we allow cabin disruption or distractions from challenging passengers to comply with crew instructions to become a regular occurrence, we risk running out of clues of a coordinated attack. We simply cannot. not allow this behavior to become mainstream for this reason. alone. Each level of threat requires vigilance and careful consideration. We cannot allow ourselves to be lulled into a place where we will accept these distractions as a new normal. “
Configuration of airplane seats on a passenger jet. (Photo by: Peter Titmus / Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Since January, the Federal Aviation Administration has recorded more than 4,300 reports of unruly passengers, resulting in more than $ 1 million in fines.
“At this point I have lost count of the times I have been insulted or threatened on a flight just for doing my job,” Andrews said at the hearing, then describing an incident in which he been described as racist insults by a passenger.
“I know I don’t deserve to be spoken to like that under any circumstance,” Andrews continued. âThese days I come to work expecting some form of disrespect or air rage. I feel like flight attendants have become the butt of all kinds of frustrations some people feel. . Sometimes this happens when passengers do not agree with airline or federal policies. Sometimes passengers are emboldened by alcohol. But most of all, daily flight attendants are not respected for the work that we are here and trained for. ”
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Nelson noted a union survey which found that more than 85% of all respondents encountered unruly passengers in the first half of 2021.
The hearing also follows Delta Air Lines’ announcement Thursday, banning more than 1,600 people on its no-fly list, and urges other airlines to share their lists.
In an internal memo obtained and reviewed by FOX TV stations, the company said it made its decision with the goal of ensuring the safety of crew members and customers.
“At Delta, we now have over 1,600 people on our ‘no-fly’ list and have submitted over 600 banned names to the FAA in 2021 as part of their special emphasis enforcement program. Delta told all flight attendants on Wednesday. . âWe’ve also asked other airlines to share their no-fly lists to further protect airline employees across the industry – something we know is a priority for you as well. banned client list does not work as well if that client can travel with another airline. “
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Earlier this year, the FAA proposed civil penalties ranging from $ 7,500 to $ 15,500 against four air passengers who allegedly hampered the ability of flight attendants to do their jobs, despite being urged to follow policies. cabin requirements and various other federal regulations.
Airlines reported about six disruptive passenger incidents per 10,000 flights last week, the FAA said. It’s about the same as at the end of June, but down about half from February and March. It is more than twice the rate of 2.45 incidents per 10,000 thefts in the last three months of 2020.
FAA figures show the spike began in late January, including several flights that were disrupted by people on their way to a rally in Washington for then-President Donald Trump.
AFA is the flight attendants union organized by flight attendants for flight attendants. According to the union, the AFA represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants from 17 airlines, “serving as a voice for flight attendants in the workplace, in industry, in the media and on Capitol Hill.”
This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.