Unruly passengers on airplanes fueled by anxiety and alcohol

Local News

A Hawaiian Airlines flight bound for Los Angeles turned around last night after a fight broke out between passengers. 

And just last month, another Hawaiian flight was diverted after a man tried to punch the flight crew.

How often are passenger outbursts mid-flight occuring? Are they happening more often?

According to FAA data on unruly passengers, the numbers have only increased slightly since 2017. 
incidents are actually down compared to several years ago.

FAA Data: Unruly Passengers
Year Total
2004 310
2005 205
2006 137
2007 153
2008 124
2009 139
2010 128
2011 155
2012 183
2013 149
2014 147
2015 105
2016 101
2017 90
2018 120 as of February 4, 2019.

But what is causing passengers to behave so badly? 

Dr. William Haning a professor of psychiatry at JABSOM specializing in addition psychiatry, said there are a number of reasons.

“Increasingly, airline flight is characterized by a sense of anonymity and frankly unimportance on the part of the traveler. It’s a stage set for people who are getting tense to become fearful, and at the same time, want to take it out on someone,” Haning explained.

He said being in tight quarters, confined for great lengths of time causes stress.

“Unfortunately, the airline solution of this over the decades, has always been to try and offer people comfort in adult beverages. Here have a cocktail we’re sorry for your inconvenience. As a consequence, alcohol, which is disinhibiting ,  eliminates a lot of the controls people have on their behavior. And their irritability makes the situation worse,” Haning said. 

Passengers who said they fly often, agree that alcohol often exacerbates the situation.

“Some people drink too much alcohol on the flight and then you might have an unruly passenger on a longer flight not really on inter-island I’ve never noticed,” Colleen Smith said.

“I think just with globalization you got more people traveling all the time so you got an increase in flights and increase in people so you going to get a bit of an increase in unruly passengers…I think alcohol is a big one for that,” Thomas Harris said. Harris just arrived from Australia.

Unruly passengers can face serious consequences, including a fine of up to $25,000 per violation according to FAA.

KHON reached out to the FBI to find out more about the Hawaiian Airlines flight 2, which was diverted yesterday. The FBI said they are currently investigating but could not confirm if anyone was in custody.

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