A new survey of nearly 5,000 flight attendants released this week by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) found that over 85 percent have dealt with unruly passengers since air travel picked up in 2021.
More than half (58%) had experienced at least five incidents this year and a shocking 17% reported experiencing a physical incident.
The findings from the poll show that many flight attendants are dealing with numerous instances involving disrupting or overly aggressive travelers while working towards achieving an enjoyable experience for all customers during these challenging times.
Almost every flight attendant experienced at least one incident this past year where they needed to intervene between two individuals.
AFA Calls on FAA, DOF to Adopt Harsher Penalties Against Unruly Flyers
The AFA is calling on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Justice (DOJ) to protect passengers and crew from disruptive, and verbally and physically abusive travelers. Survey data confirmed that existing measures were failing to address the problem.
71 percent of Flight Attendants who filed incident reports with airline management received no follow-up and a majority did not observe efforts to address the rise in unruly passengers by their employers.
“This survey confirms what we all know, the vitriol, verbal and physical abuse from a small group of passengers is completely out of control, and is putting other passengers and flight crew at risk. This is not just about masks as some have attempted to claim. There is a lot more going on here and the solutions require a series of actions in coordination across aviation,” said Sara Nelson, President of AFA-CWA. “It is time to make the FAA ‘zero tolerance’ policy permanent, the Department of Justice to utilize existing statute to conduct criminal prosecution, and implement a series of actions proposed by our union to keep problems on the ground and respond effectively in the event of incidents.”
“This is not a ‘new normal’ we are willing to accept,” Nelson continued. “We know the government, airlines, airports, and all stakeholders can take actions together to keep us safe and flying friendly. We will be sharing survey findings with FAA, DOT, TSA, and FBI to help more fully identify the problems and our union’s proposed actions to affect positive change.”
Violent Passenger Incidents Have Spiked in the Last Year
Violation of aviation safety rules in the form of verbally abusive and physically violent passenger misconduct has been on an unprecedented rise according to recent findings.
The FAA's most public reporting shows 3,615 incident reports this year alone with a record number enforcement actions taken against violators since March 2021 when FAA Administrator Steve Dickson made it clear that there were "zero tolerance" policies for such violations.
In light of these ongoing trends, the administration launched campaigns educating passengers about their consequences should they violate any aviation regulations before boarding flights; however many are questioning whether or not harsher punishments would be more effective at deterring future behavior among passengers who find themselves abusing others around them during flight time.
Mask Compliance, Alcohol...The Main Drivers of Passenger Incidents
Flight Attendants have found that a few common factors seem to contribute most often - mask compliance, alcohol consumption, routine safety reminders like preflight announcements or flight delays/cancellations.
Flight attendants are constantly facing verbal abuse, including from visibly drunk passengers. Flight attendants often find themselves yelled at and sworn at by irritated passengers who refuse to obey instructions during a crisis for fear of their own safety or comfort. They also frequently have aggressive confrontations with other flight crew members trying to enforce federal rules in order to keep everyone safe on the plane.
Nearly 5,000 responses from flight attendants across 30 airlines were collected from June 25, 2021 through July 14, 2021 through an online survey.
[Source: Association of Flight Attendants]