The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is encouraging US airports to help deal with the spike in unruly passengers. The move comes as the air carriers observe a growing number of passengers’ disruptive behavior onboard.
Despite the FAA adopting zero tolerance policy towards inflight incidents in January 2021, it has called for more help from US airport officials with regards to the violent passengers onboard. According to the FAA investigations, in most cases alcohol consumption onboard or before boarding into the plane contributes to disruptive behavior. In order to stop that, the FAA Chief Steve Dickson called for airports’ help to prevent passengers from sneaking in alcohol onboard as well as encouraged police to press federal charges.
“We are taking the strongest possible action within our legal authority. But we need your help,” Dickson wrote in a letter to airport officials made public on August 5, 2021. “In some cases, flight attendants have reported being physically assaulted. Nevertheless, many of these passengers were interviewed by local police and released without criminal charges of any kind. When this occurs, we miss a key opportunity to hold unruly passengers accountable for their unacceptable and dangerous behavior.”
Adding to that, an increase in unruly passengers was largely reported due to misconduct related to procedural changes introduced during the global health crisis. As of August 1, 2021, the tally of reported inflight incidents for US carriers has risen to 3,715, of which 2,729 were mask-related disruptions. To date, the FAA has recorded 628 violation cases and acted against 99 cases.
“In a typical year the agency will end up taking this type of enforcement action in about 100 to 160 enforcement cases so it’s nothing new,” Dickson told ABC News. “What really is new is the volume that we’re seeing right now.”
In June 2021, Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), Airlines for America, and other unions sent a letter to the US Attorney General Merrick Garland, asking for “more be done to deter egregious passenger behavior, which is in violation of federal law”. The US unions sought adding more criminal charges to unruly passengers onboard.
“We highly commend the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for adopting a stricter legal enforcement policy against unruly airline passengers through Administrator Dickson’s Special Emphasis Enforcement Program,” read the joint letter written on June 21, 2021.