Flight attendants report high frequency of unruly passengers

DALLAS — Nearly one in five flight attendants say they have witnessed physical incidents involving passengers this year, and their union is calling for criminal prosecution of people who act up on planes.

A union survey supports what airlines and federal officials have been saying: There has been a surge in unruly passengers this year, who sometimes become violent.

The most common trigger is passengers who refuse to follow the federal requirement that they wear face masks during flights, according to the survey by the Association of Flight Attendants. Alcohol is the next largest factor, with flight delays also playing a role, according to the union.

The union said nearly 5,000 flight attendants responded to its survey from June 25 through July 14 and 85% said they have dealt at least once this year with an unruly passenger. The union said 17% reported seeing a “physical incident,” including touching, slapping or striking a flight attendant or another passenger.

Some said they were cursed or yelled at, and some said they were followed through the airport and harassed after the flight ended, said the union, which represents flight attendants at United, Alaska, Spirit and several smaller carriers.

Airlines have banned a few thousand people for the duration of the mask rule, and the Federal Aviation Administration has announced proposed fines against dozens of people. But union President Sara Nelson said more passengers should face criminal prosecution.

“When people are facing jail time for acting out on a plane, we suddenly see some sobering up, and we need some sobering up,” Sara Nelson, the union’s president, told reporters.

A few cases have led to criminal charges, and crews sometimes ask police to meet the plane when it lands. In May, a 28-year-old woman was arrested on felony charges in San Diego after a video showed a young female passenger punching a Southwest flight attendant in the face. Such cases are usually filed by local prosecutors — the FAA lacks authority to pursue criminal charges.

The FAA said this week that airlines have reported more than 3,600 cases of unruly passengers this year — figures were not kept for prior years. Nearly three-fourths involved disputes over masks. The agency has announced dozens of proposed fines, the largest being $52,500 for a man who tried to open the cockpit door and then struck a flight attendant on a Delta Air Lines flight in December.

The FAA said it is investigating 600 other cases this year — nearly double the number of investigations started in 2019 and 2020 combined. In January FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson announced a “zero-tolerance policy” in which passengers can face immediate enforcement action instead of warnings.

Share Your Story

Nativo Sponsored Content

Ad Tango


"

taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
Tribal nations file NM redistricting proposal
ABQnews Seeker
They say move will protect Native ... They say move will protect Native votes, begin to address history of 'disenfranchisement and suppression'
2
Stapleton facing 26 felony charges
ABQnews Seeker
Racketeering, money laundering among charges Racketeering, money laundering among charges
3
Courts announce plan to tighten pretrial GPS monitoring
ABQnews Seeker
The courts announced plans Monday for ... The courts announced plans Monday for a 24/7 alert system to notify law enforcement if someone wearing an electronic monitoring device violates conditions of ...
4
Two lawmakers go to court over governor's federal aid ...
ABQnews Seeker
Suit seeks to protect Legislature's power ... Suit seeks to protect Legislature's power over the state's purse strings
5
Number of COVID cases in hospital falls 3%
ABQnews Seeker
State vaccination rate among adults up ... State vaccination rate among adults up to 69.8%, about 4 percentage points higher than the national average
6
Garcia Holmes to again make bid for CD1
ABQnews Seeker
Republican first person to announce campaign ... Republican first person to announce campaign to unseat Stansbury
7
Four agencies sued in fatal Deming police shooting
ABQnews Seeker
Suit alleges man was on knees, ... Suit alleges man was on knees, following commands when officers opened fire
8
Hispanic cultural group receives $50K grant for film program
ABQnews Seeker
Money to fund costs associated with ... Money to fund costs associated with presenting films highlighting Hispanic and Latinx directors and actors
9
Balloon Fiesta still may alter COVID-19 protocol
ABQnews Seeker
City officials say they have not ... City officials say they have not ruled out requiring proof of vaccination
10
ABQ City Council OKs zero-fare bus program
ABQnews Seeker
Pilot project slated to last for ... Pilot project slated to last for 12 months