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This Campaign Is Calling for a Zero Tolerance Policy on Unruly Passengers

This Campaign Is Calling for a Zero Tolerance Policy on Unruly Passengers
Jackie Reddy

Unruly, aggressive behavior in the skies is nothing new. With these incidents significantly on the rise, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is partnering with a number of industry bodies to launch the “Not On My Flight” initiative to raise awareness of disruptive in-flight behavior.

Unruly behavior in the skies is nothing new, but these unpleasant incidents are noticeably on the rise, reports Business Insider. Information from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has revealed that, in 2017, one passenger on every 1,053 journeys became disruptive or aggressive.

Putting that figure into context, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), says that this equates to one flight disrupted by an aggressive passenger every three hours.

Looking at 2018, EASA has revealed that last year alone saw a 34% increase on the figures for 2017.

“These figures are worrying as they show an increasing trend. What is particularly disturbing is that these incidents have a direct impact on both the safety of crew and passengers. Even though the number of unruly passengers is small considering the total number of people flying, the impact of their actions can have a disproportionate effect both on the smooth operation of the flight and more importantly on its safety,” the body explained in a statement.

In an effort to combat disruptive behavior in the skies, EASA has partnered with other bodies across the aviation industry, including IATA, to introduce its “Not On My Flight” initiative. This campaign aims to raise awareness of how aggressive passengers can negatively impact on the experience of their fellow travelers.

As part of this campaign, EASA is engaging with the flying public in order to take a stance on this kind of disruptive behavior. It is asking them to share this video and use the Twitter hashtag #notonmyflight to show what it describes as “zero tolerance” for this kind of behavior.

In a statement, IATA explained that, due to loopholes in current legislation, many instances of disruptive behavior are not punished. According to Tim Colehan, IATA’s assistant director, external affairs, these kinds of incidents remain “a significant problem”.

In addition to shoring up the current legislation on disruptive passengers, IATA is, “…advocating for the wider use of civil and administrative penalties so that unruly passengers can be held to account for their misbehavior.”

[Image Source: Screenshot from EASA video]

View Comments (27)


  1. narvik

    April 9, 2019 at 4:38 am

    The supposed increase in these incidents might also have to do with flight crews’ lower tolerance of what they might considered “unruly”.

  2. IMissThe747

    April 9, 2019 at 4:40 am

    I have noticed an increase in general grumpiness in the last few years. I wonder if there is any measurable correlation between the increase of unruly passengers and the decrease of personal space via less seat pitch and 10-across vs 9-across on 777s?

  3. DCAFly

    April 9, 2019 at 7:35 am

    IATA is the self-proclaimed trade association for the world’s airline. So given that, how are they defining unruly behavior? Every time someone questions an FA, is that unruly behavior? I fear this big brothering is just an attempt to further embolden and empower FAs and the airlines to bully passengers into submission.

  4. Mtothe M

    April 9, 2019 at 8:44 am

    I’m good with banning badly-behaved folks – even if it’s their first time. There’s other ways to travel – even abroad – if you can’t behave on a plane.

    Of course, I always behave, so I’m guessing those that don’t are going to be against said proposals…

  5. FlyingNone

    April 9, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    Though I believe there are more airline employees these days that over-react too quickly to minor offenses (certainly not this example), they (airlines) are also to blame for not immediately doing anything about real verbal insults/ abuse/ harassment to their employees, both on the ground and in the air. For instance, while still on the ground….instead of having these passengers just “removed”, airline personnel need to back up their employees when there is legitimate reason to remove harassing, drunk, dangerous passengers. Don’t just put them on the next available flight – how about cancelling their reservation – “You’re on your own, go find another airline to fly you”……No backup, no options, no refunds. Stop being so afraid to stand up to troublemakers.

  6. sduraybito

    April 10, 2019 at 11:56 am

    Maybe not pack passengers in like sardines? Just a thought.

  7. Will Rogers

    April 10, 2019 at 11:58 am

    People would be far more upset if they knew just how shockingly few unruly passengers that are pulled off planes are ever charged with a crime or punished in any other way. In the vast majority of cases the airlines choose to not press charges, and the offenders are let go.

  8. johnrocker

    April 10, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    Not that I’m a bad ass, but I certainly pity the idiot that thinks they are going to disrupt and delay my flight. Its like a school shooting. If everyone stands there scared and watching, it happens. However, if just one person, maybe staring others to join in, the situation can be controlled.

  9. Frizzy

    April 10, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    I read so many news articles about appalling behaviour where the plane is diverted and police deplane the perpetrator, then, guess what, no charges are laid!!! I can’t believe that causing a plane to be diverted is not a chargeable offence. It is an economic crime that impacts everyone in the industry, not to mention the outrages committed on board, and the inconvenience suffered by pax whose flights are diverted. On every flight we are warned that smoking in the toilets or interfering with the smoke detectors are crimes attracting a heavy fine; why then, do flight disrupters tend to get off without charge??

  10. Derylh

    April 10, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    Since 99% of these incidents are fueled by alcohol the common-sense solution would be to refuse to board anyone who has obviously been drinking and stop all alcohol consumption on board the plane. At a minimum, airlines should keep a breathalyzer machine at the gate and require any passenger who appears to be the least bit inebriated to blow into the machine. The airlines could set a maximum, beyond which boarding would be denied. Of course, these actions would cut into their revenues, so don’t expect any of this to actually happen.

  11. Mtothe M

    April 10, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    @FlyingNone: The airlines are so afraid of conflict, they resemble schools that get overrun by idiot parents that always “threaten to sue”…I’d just say “sue away!” and use those lawyers they keep on retainer to keep them filing paperwork for years.

    @sduraybito: Huh? That entitles passengers to be belligerent/racist/vulgar/drunken jerks? Please try again. You must be a defense attorney – blaming the victim like you are here.

  12. BC Shelby

    April 10, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    @ sduraybito: “Maybe not pack passengers in like sardines? Just a thought.”

    …my thoughts as well. Yet airlines, particularly in the US domestic market, keep placing profit over passenger service, and look for any way they can to cram more bodies in a limited amount of space. The less comfortable you are, the morel likely you are to become annoyed.

  13. MitchR

    April 10, 2019 at 1:13 pm

    In 40 years of flying I have seen less than 10 issues. Every time it has been due to over serving of alcohol. I like a drink every now and then, but giving an already inebriated passenger three more drinks is asking for trouble.
    I do see, however, more ‘pushing of buttons’ by airline personnel. Case in point, yesterday I am in my seat waiting for take off, the gate agent comes onto the plane and tells me that I am in the wrong seat. I give her my boarding pass, I’m in the seat on the pass, she tells me that it’s the wrong seat and that I have to get off of the plane. Fortunately the FA heard the commotion and stepped in. They proceed to argue and they realize that the system put the wrong seat number on my boarding pass. They determine my seat and re seat me. My question is, why did the gate agent find it necessary to accuse me of being in the wrong seat, and make accusations? In my 40 years I have learned to smile and stay calm. Not all passengers have acquired that skill, nor should they have to.

  14. azmojo

    April 10, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    I agree. The bar has been lowered so now any complaint can label you as ‘unruly.’ Adam Sandler in Anger Management comes to mind.

  15. capin

    April 10, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    Will i be allowed to complain if I am unhappy with the service onboard or is that “unruly” ?

  16. jybrick

    April 10, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    I’ve never opened a can of sardines and seen them fighting though.

  17. MarkTwain2000

    April 10, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    This is the airlines fault. You treat people like crap with unreliable service and draconian levels of comfort and people start to act like animals. Treat people well generally everyone is happy.

  18. respawn

    April 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    I would like to say it’s all about being crammed in together, but my own personal experiences with unruly passengers have both come while seated in domestic first.

    The first one I was in 1C when an obviously inebriated woman boarded, was assigned to 1D, and loudly demanded that my bag be moved because she needed the overhead space above our seats. She then proceeded to take out her phone and openly mock me while I was finishing up a business call. The end result was the gate agent offering to reseat *me* back in coach instead of removing the drunkard.

    The second incident was on our way back from our honeymoon. The wife and I were seated in 2A&B. While putting my bag in the overhead, the older guy seated in 1B proceeded to pick a fight with me because I was putting my bag in the same bin as his, telling me I better not screw with his stuff.

    In both of my incidents, the FAs were witness to the incident and acknowledged the other passenger was instigating. In neither incident was the passenger removed, and in the first I felt like they were punishing *me* for even asking them to do something about Drunky McDrunkerson seated next to me. So, yeah. It’s not just about shrinking seats. It’s about a lot of passengers’ general contempt for their fellow man, and the zero consequences for acting on said contempt.

  19. fairhsa

    April 10, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    This is open to a huge amount of abuse. I’ve been labelled as unruly when just trying to sort out an issue caused by another passenger; and again when all I did was point out in a (completely bizarre) incident that one seat was different from another seat (I never did figure out what that was all about, I think it was actually south asian sexism at work). Plus do we really want people spying on their fellow passengers and sending videos? What a bloody stupid idea. As others have mentioned, stop serving alcohol to anyone drunk and stop packing planes like sardines should make a big difference!

  20. Great_circle

    April 10, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    Other than a slightly annoying intoxicated seatmate 21 years ago (that all surrounding people found rather amusing) I never witnessed any significant incident within Europe, despite what the media say. On the other hand, these same media always describe incidents happening on ‘certain airlines’ and routes that I never fly.

    The only case of (verbal) agression that I witnessed was in South East Asia while sitting in business class when a man pressed the FA-button every minute demanding drinks, continuing doing so during severe turbulence during gradual descent, followed by terrible verbal abuse of the poor female FA when not getting any drinks. No one, including crew, did anything,

  21. weero


    April 11, 2019 at 1:25 am

    I agree on holding passengers accountable for real safety violations. But landing or turning back the plane because a passenger did not obey enough should leave the burden of proof with the airline.

    Also, if the seat pitch is less than 32″ or the seat is less than 18″ wide, airlines should be held 50% liable for all incidents.
    That would fix the problem on several fronts.

  22. MimiB22

    April 11, 2019 at 5:41 am

    Many of the previous comments are spot on. This problem doesn’t have just one cause, there are many… packing people onto the plane like sardines, drunkenness, overly sensitive FAs, grumpy and stressed passengers, etc etc. There are solutions, for each. I agree about the breathalyzer test in case a boarding passenger shows signs of inebriation. I believe passengers access to alcohol on the plane should be limited, perhaps to one two drinks an hour? But first and foremost, airlines must be forced to consider individual passenger space allotments. This is a health issue.

  23. KRSW

    April 11, 2019 at 7:48 am

    Perhaps if airlines (and TSA/related entities) treated passengers are human beings rather than livestock, you might find passengers will treat their staff with similar respect.

    /getting rid of bad flight attendants would be a good start.

  24. MrGood

    April 11, 2019 at 8:38 am

    This is one big cringey joke. And that cheesy campaign video might just INCREASE unruly passengers. There’s no way to effectively punish these folks without int’l involvement, but the loopholes (aka excuses) will never go away. Just keep circulating air marshalls and done.

  25. AAdamE

    April 11, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    OK and how many times do cabin crew escalate issues? Happy to see this law passed if all cabin crew must go through DE-escalation training. I think its great that people on here want no alcohol because “every” incident on a flight they have ever seen involved alcohol. Well most of the convicts I’ve seen involve a lack of human decency from cabin staff which throws gas on the fire. Also, don’t over serve.

  26. sar7cee

    April 13, 2019 at 10:07 am

    On a flight from ICN to KIX a few years ago, a passenger in business had to be repeatedly told to fasten his belt and put his seat upright before take-off. He eventually complied after much argument with FA.

    He adamantly refused to comply when asked to do so on final approach; keeping his seat flat and shouting at FA in Korean. He kept his seat flat until we reached the gate. She was almost in tears but didn’t call a pilot to speak to the jerk.

  27. horseymike

    April 18, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    bad behavior has been getting worse in general these days. it needs to be curtailed everywhere especially on the airlines. the airlines should also review the policy of cramming people in planes like sardines and figure a way to be profitable yet, provide a civiized experience for all passengers.

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