Foiling Unruly Fliers

Some 10,854 unruly passenger incidents were reported to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) by airlines worldwide last year, according to figures it has just released. This equates to one incident for every 1,205 flights, an increase from the 9,316 incidents reported in 2014 (or one incident for every 1,282 flights). The Montreal Protocol 2014 closed gaps in the international legal framework dealing with unruly passengers. To date, six states have ratified the Protocol based around enhancing the international deterrent and more effective prevention and management of incidents. The majority of incidents involved verbal abuse, failure to follow lawful crew instructions, and other forms of anti-social behaviour. A significant proportion (11%) of reports indicated physical aggression towards passengers or crew or damage to the aircraft. Alcohol or drug intoxication was identified as a factor in 23% of cases, though in the vast majority of instances these were consumed prior to boarding or from personal supply without knowledge of the crew. In some countries there has been a focus on the role of alcohol as a trigger for disruptive behaviour, and airlines already have strong guidelines and crew training on the responsible provision of alcoholic beverages. IATA is supporting initiatives, such as the code of practice pioneered in the UK, which includes a focus on prevention of intoxication and excessive drinking prior to boarding. Staff in airport bars and duty-free shops must be trained to serve alcohol responsibly and there is a need to avoid offers that encourage so-called ‘binge drinking’. An initiative by Monarch Airlines at London’s Gatwick Airport has shown that instances of disruptive behaviour can be cut 50% with this pro-active approach before passengers’ board. The industry believes that adopting this cooperative voluntary approach is preferable to heavy-handed regulation and licensing, thus managing the small percentage of passengers who abuse alcohol. “Unruly and disruptive behaviour is simply not acceptable. The anti-social behaviour of a tiny minority of customers can have unpleasant consequences for the safety and comfort of all on board. The increase in reported incidents tells us that more effective deterrents are needed. Airlines and airports are guided by core principles developed in 2014 to help prevent and manage such incidents. But we cannot do it alone. That’s why we are encouraging more governments to ratify the Montreal Protocol 2014,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.