Severe disturbances on commercial flights climb

FILE- In this file photo provided by Donna Basden, a man is escorted off an American Airlines flight
A man is escorted off an American Airlines flight after it landed in Honolulu in May. Court records say the man caused a disturbance on a flight from Los Angeles. Industry data show incidents of serious disturbances rose in 2016.
(Donna Basden / Associated Press)

Fewer passengers became unruly on commercial flights last year but a bigger share of those incidents involved serious behavior problems such as fighting or threatening passengers and crew members.

That was the assessment by the International Air Transport Assn., the trade group for the world’s airline industry. The group has tracked 58,000 incidents of unruly passengers since 2007.

The trade group categorizes the incidents on a scale of one to four, ranging in severity from a passenger who fails to comply with safety procedures to a flier who attacks the cockpit crew.

The number of reports of unruly passengers declined in 2016.
(International Air Transport Assn. )

The overall number of unruly passenger reports decreased slightly more than 9% to 9,837 last year from 10,854 in 2015, the trade group said. Most of those cases, 87%, were considered the least severe, or level one incidents, the report said.

But the share of incidents considered level two cases — involving “physical aggression to others and damage to aircraft” — grew last year to 12%, up from 11% in 2015, the trade group reported.

Also, the number of cases in which the cabin crew had to restrain a passenger jumped to 169 last year from 113 in 2015.

Alcohol played a role in a third of the level two incidents, the report said.


The trade group said most of the drinking took place at airport bars and restaurants or in the plane without the knowledge of the crew. The trade group urged bar and restaurant operators to train employees to avoid serving too much booze to passengers who are about to board a plane.

It also called on more countries to ratify an agreement to impose harsher punishments on misbehaving passengers.

“Too often those accused of unruly and disruptive behavior are often released without charge,” the report said.

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