Airlines want action to combat unruly fliers
DOHA, Qatar -- The airline industry wants action to help bring down the number of unruly passengers who disrupt flights.
The number of reported in-flight incidents has surged in recent years says the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which is calling for "a balanced package of measures" to battle the problem.
"The numbers have indeed risen alarmingly over the last year or two," Tony Tyler, the CEO of the influential trade group, said on Tuesday during IATA's annual general meeting here.
Tyler said IATA has been collecting data on in-flight incidents since 2007, though he says the information submitted by the airlines is done on a voluntary basis. Since 2010, there have been 20,000 unruly passenger incidents reported by airlines, according to IATA. But 8,000 thousand of those incidents – or 40% of all those reported since 2010 – came just last year.
TODAY IN THE SKY : FBI: Drunken flier gropes 3 on UK-bound US Airways flight (May 2014)
MORE: Southwest jet diverts after unruly flier tries to open door (April 2014)
ALSO ONLINE: Seatmates cheer as unruly Key West flier taken into custody (July 2013)
The trade group has a wide definition for unruly behavior, which includes not obeying crew members, verbal confrontations and sexual harassment.
Tyler says it's unclear whether there's an actual spike or if it's that airlines are becoming more diligent about reporting them.
"Either way, it's time to do something about it," Tyler said.
Among the things IATA would like to see:
•Airline crews should be trained to help prevent or manage disruptive behavior from fliers, whether they're at check-in, the gate or onboard an aircraft.
TODAY IN THE SKY: Report: Unruly flier attacked crew, hurled ice cream (Aug. 2013)
MORE: Caught on video: Unruly flier booted off Frontier flight (October 2013)
•More help from airport employees – especially those in bars and restaurants – to keep fliers from ordering excessive amounts of alcohol prior to a flight.
"Very often," Tyler said, incidents of unruly passengers are "a result of inebriation. And very often that's the result of alcohol consumption from before the person set foot on the aircraft."
•Government agreements to better delineate which law enforcement agencies have jurisdiction in such cases.
"This is going to make it just a bit easier for authorities to take action against people who seriously endanger the well-being of passengers and possibly the safety of flights," Tyler said. "There are so many cases where people do egregious things. Police might come and detain them when they arrive, but in most cases they go (free)."
Despite the recommendations, Tyler said the main goal of the call to action is to avoid such cases altogether.
"The main thing is to discourage this," he said. "Passengers are our life boat. They give us the money we need to continue our business. We're not out to harass and persecute our passengers. All we simply want is that on the rare occasions that this happens, there needs to be a sufficiently disciplined way of dealing with it. That people realize you can't do it."