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Carriers: We Have A Problem With Racism (and Homophobia, and Sexual Harassment…)

Carriers: We Have A Problem With Racism (and Homophobia, and Sexual Harassment…)
Jackie Reddy

According to data obtained from IATA, airlines are finding it hard to stop instances of aggressive behavior and sexual harassment in the cabin. Within the last year, there were 350 cases of these kinds of incidents reported by IATA. In the vast majority of cases, there was no punitive action taken.

Data obtained from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) by Bloomberg indicates that many carriers are finding it difficult to combat sexual harassment and racism in the cabin.

Within the last year alone, there were 350 cases of a wide range of inappropriate behaviors – including touching as well as occurrences of homophobic, racist and even ageist outbursts – on flights. The outlet reports that, only in 178 cases did police or security staff intervene and out of that figure, only 17 passengers were removed from planes as a result of these kinds of incidents. In the remaining 141 cases, passengers were only issued a warning.

The data from IATA also appears to indicate that the excessive consumption of alcohol is a factor in this kind of aggressive behavior. The figures given by IATA, reports the outlet, are “the first collated on so-called hate crimes on aircraft.”

Speaking to the outlet, Tim Colehan, assistant director of external affairs at IATA, stated that many members of cabin crew now receive training that will enable them to monitor the amount of alcohol consumed by passengers. He also added that many are now trained to calm and deescalate instances of aggressive behavior as and when they arise.

However, commenting on the figures obtained from IATA, Colehan stated that “there should be zero tolerance to this.”

But he also added that these kinds of incidents require “people to be willing to report to crew and sometimes for there to be witnesses. And if a country doesn’t have the jurisdiction to intervene, the accused will just be released.”

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (13)


  1. strickerj

    December 17, 2018 at 4:15 am

    An average of one incident in tens of thousands of flights per day (just in the U.S., much more if the statistic were worldwide) doesn’t seem that bad to me. What’s concerning is how few instigators are removed from the flight (and fewer still arrested and charged). It seems the crew tends to err on the side of avoiding conflict, which isn’t always the best course of action.

  2. Global321

    December 17, 2018 at 4:59 am

    1. One incident is one too many.
    2. “Carriers: We Have A Problem With Racism (and Homophobia, and Sexual Harassment…)”
    3. “350 cases of a wide range of inappropriate behaviors”
    4. 38,000,000 flights in the last year.
    5. That is one incident for every 108,571 flights.
    6. Assuming ~100 people per flight, that is 1 in every 11,000,000 passengers causes a problem.
    7. The goal and programs should be zero incidents, but I am not sure how realistic that is.

    Just food for thought.

  3. bobert24

    December 17, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Agree with both comments above. One thing to think about when considering how many/few instigators are removed from flights: what do they use to define “incidents”? For example, if someone tells a slow-moving older gentleman boarding in front of them to “hurry up, old man!” that would fit the definition of ageist. Completely inappropriate behavior? Of course. Will the police remove that person from the flight if they’re called? No.

    The fact that so many incidents that ended with police being called didn’t end with someone being removed from the flight actually makes it look like crews are erring on the side of over-reporting these incidents.

  4. Irpworks

    December 17, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    Yeah, everyone is a victim of everyone else.

  5. Zephyr22

    December 18, 2018 at 8:52 am

    “there should be zero tolerance to this” – free speech?

    There are jerks out there who say dumb things in public places, including airplanes, but unless they are threatening someone or causing a riot, it seems like this article is inclining toward PC tyranny in the air and airports. There are also people out there who take offense at the smallest remark or “body language”.

    The primary business of airlines is to move people and cargo, safely. Anything that increases risk to passengers, cargo or safety of flight should be mitigated, by removal if needed. That includes people who may not say anything offensive but want to tinker with the USB ports or try to crash the Wi-Fi system to prove that they can.

    I’ve also seen that the EU wants to add a slew of other things to offensive speech, including subjects that relate to politics, religion, history (think Poland’s new law), etc. It is not the role of airlines to be PC police and if they do, they are more likely to neglect something that is more important to the safety of the passengers.

  6. 84fiero

    December 18, 2018 at 11:59 am

    Agree with bobert24 and other comments above. There doesn’t appear to be a systemic, statistically significant problem. Certainly no worse than in the world at large.

    Why would the police be called, much less arrest, a passenger for being racist, sexist, etc? None of that in itself is against the law, at least in the US and most countries.

    Much ado about nothing. If anything flight crews are over-relying on calling the cops.

  7. 50ae

    December 19, 2018 at 4:33 am

    I’m AA ExPlat and I’ve seen one instance in over 20 years and that was at LGB on 9/10/2001. He got arrested by LGB police and I never knew what happened to him though I can imagine it wasn’t a good day in court for him being what happened the next day.


    December 19, 2018 at 4:39 am

    What exactly is a homophobic outburst?

  9. alexmyboy

    December 19, 2018 at 5:16 am

    if you are wearing a MAGA hat you should be removed immediately from the plane.

  10. Mtothe M

    December 19, 2018 at 6:34 am

    Zephyr, it seems you really don’t understand “free speech” beyond the phrase itself. You should probably check it out.

  11. jdclover

    December 19, 2018 at 7:21 am

    @Global321: For 2017 data:

    850,000,000 passengers on US airlines. So 350 out of 850,000,000. Yeah, that’s not the problem the headline implies. That’s more than twice the population of the US, with a small school’s population being possibly problematic. If a country had those numbers, they would not have any *ism issues, they would probably be praised.

  12. awayIgo

    December 19, 2018 at 7:36 am


    You are writing- a bad joke? Seriously? Bottom line, the fact that you would write such indicates your animosity towards Trump Supporters. Not only are you not funny, but you are part of the problem. Jerks who think they are cute and don’t care about rights and opinions of others.

    I used to teach my students, “ if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing! I guess you never learned that!

  13. jrpallante

    December 19, 2018 at 9:13 am

    I like the range of comments above, everything from very intelligent to very bigoted.

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