HONOLULU (KHON2) — Violent and disruptive airline passengers continue to cause problems.
From aggressive verbal outbursts to physical assaults, unruly passengers continue to act out, according to Jaci-Ann Chung from Council 43 of the Association of Flight Attendants.
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“I think, because of the pandemic, people are a bit outlandish,” Chung said. “they have no problems verbally accosting or assaulting, not just the crew members, but also other passengers.”
Violent incidents skyrocketed in 2021, according to FAA. Statistics show there were nearly 5,981 reported cases of unruly passengers.
While that number declined dramatically from 2022, to 2,359 it was still well above pre-pandemic levels (2020=183, 2019=146).
Chung said she thinks the numbers were higher this year.
“People don’t want to report things because they just want to get from point A to B, or they don’t want to deal with the paperwork,” she explained. “They don’t want to have to take additional time to talk to other people. So there’s also a component of reporting malaise that factors into all of this.”
According to Flight Aware, on Jan. 4, Air Canada flight 35 from Vancouver bound for Brisbane, Australia diverted to Honolulu. The unscheduled landing due to an alleged incident onboard between a passenger and a flight attendant.
Chung said flight attendants are trained to diffuse situations, but she it’s still alarming.
“It’s startling every single time there’s one of these outbursts,” she said. “It’s really kind of scary because you never know what’s going to happen in a split second. And, a lot of us harken back to 911. Like, you don’t know if it’s going to be some kind of terrorist event, or what it can turn into.”
Chung said airlines do have protocols in place to deal with unruly passengers. And, in 2021, the FAA adopted a zero tolerance policy.
According to the policy, “the FAA will not address these cases with warnings or counseling. The agency will pursue legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members.”
They could even face fines of up to $37,000.
And, while there were talks of creating a no-fly list for unruly passengers, those efforts were unsuccessful.
Despite all of this, passengers continue to act out causing delays and flight diversions
Sen. Chris Lee (D) the Chair of the Senate Transportation, Culture and the Arts said more needs to be done to deter the dangerous and disruptive behavior.
“Clearly it’s a huge issue. So, clearly, I think there’s additional steps that can be taken, considering something like this, to make sure that people are aware and on notice,” Lee said.
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Though the FAA has jurisdiction over air travel, Lee said it could be worth discussing to see what, if anything, could be done to deter the bad behavior at the state level.