Unruly Passenger Rate Drops


The number of incidents involving unruly passengers on commercial flights has dropped significantly since launch of the FAA’s “zero tolerance” campaign, according to data released by the agency on Thursday. The FAA adopted the approach earlier this year in response to what it described as “a dramatic increase in unruly or dangerous behavior” from commercial airline passengers. Under the zero-tolerance policy, the FAA no longer issues warning letters, resorting instead to fines, which have totaled $1.1 million to date.

“Our work is having an impact and the trend is moving in the right direction. But we need the progress to continue. This remains a serious safety threat, and one incident is one too many,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “The FAA will continue its Zero Tolerance policy, keep its public awareness campaign going, and keep pushing and partnering with everyone in the aviation system to do more.”

Last week, the agency saw 6.2 unruly passenger incidents reported per 10,000 flights, a drop of about 50 percent from early 2021. According to the FAA, there were 4,385 unruly passenger reports filed and 3,199 mask-related incidents reported between the start of the year and Sep. 21. Over the same time period, the agency initiated 789 investigations and 162 enforcement cases.

Image: FAA
Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. Whether or not the unwashed are wary of being pulled and fined heavily for disrupting commercial flights resulting in delays, recent airline policy of sharing information with each other may be a key. A blacklist of passengers banned from one airline has prompted one major airline to ask other airlines to share their blacklist in mutual support. Each airline created their own blacklist so in effect the unruly simply find another airline to fly when possible. Sharing blacklists will put a severe dent in those intent on flying and still carry their disdain against regulations such as mask mandates in public protest while boarding or during flight. Once becoming a member of a blacklist universal to almost every commercial airline, they’re are prevented from disrupting any passenger flight. The rights of individual freedom only goes so far until it infringes on the safety of a flight. Physical violence in a closed cramped can holding hundreds of civilized flying passengers wanting nothing more than to travel in peace to their destination only to be distracted with individual rights followed by violence cannot be allowed. If blacklists are shared then barring these individuals will set examples of how not to behave in public transportation. Blacklists will eventually pass as each airline will have a policy on when to remove a person from the list after a set period of time. This should dampen or eliminate uncivilized behavior altogether to return travel by commercial flights to complaints of smaller seats and traditional arm rest jousting. This world wide pandemic will eventually become manageable once the majority are vaccinated when masks won’t be required during public transportation. Most minor transgressions making these blacklists will be flying except for those using physical violence.

    • There are some “due process” concerns that would need to be addressed, and a process for getting oneself off the list if incorrectly added (this happens — ask anyone with a false entry on his credit history). Publicly sharing the list of those who have actually been fined might be better than an airline-run blacklist. I agree with the idea overall.