HONOLULU (KHON2) – Violent and disruptive airline passengers continue to be problems.
Unruly passengers have continued to act, from aggressive verbal outbursts to physical assaults, according to Jackie-Ann Chung from Council 43 of the Association of Flight Attendants.
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“I think people are a little weird because of the pandemic,” Chung said. “He has no problem verbally accusing or attacking not only crew members, but also other passengers.”
According to the FAA, violent incidents skyrocketed in 2021. Statistics show that around 5,981 cases of unruly passengers were registered.
While this number dropped dramatically to 2,359 in 2022, it was still well above pre-pandemic levels (2020=183, 2019=146).
Chung said he 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 take the extra time to talk to other people. So there’s also a component of reporting discomfort that factors into all of this.
According to Flight Aware, on January 4, Air Canada Flight 35 from Vancouver to Brisbane, Australia, was diverted to Honolulu. Unscheduled landing due to an alleged incident between a passenger and a flight attendant.
Chung said flight attendants are trained to mitigate the situations, but they are still dangerous.
“It’s shocking every time one of these eruptions happens,” she said. “It’s really scary because you never know what’s going to happen in a split second. And, a lot of us hear 911. Like, you don’t know if it’s going to be some kind of terrorist incident.” , or what it could be.
Chung said airlines have protocols in place for dealing with unruly passengers. And, in 2021, the FAA adopted a zero tolerance policy.
According to the policy, “The FAA will not address these matters with a warning or consultation. The agency will take legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates or interferes with airline crew members.
They can also be fined up to $37,000.
And, while there was talk of creating a no-fly list for unruly passengers, those efforts were unsuccessful.
Despite all this, passengers continue to work due to delays and flight diversions
Sen. Chris Lee (D), Senate Transportation, Culture and the Arts Chairman, said more needs to be done to stop the dangerous and disruptive behavior.
“Clearly it’s a big issue. So, clearly, I think there are additional steps that can be taken, something to consider like this, to make sure that people are aware and on notice Lee said.
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Although the FAA has jurisdiction over air travel, Lee said it might be worth a discussion to see what can be done to stop the bad behavior at the state level.