The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released a new analysis showing that reported unruly passenger incidents increased in 2022 compared to 2021. IATA called for more states to take the necessary authority to prosecute passengers under Montreal Protocol 2014 (MP14).
Latest figures show that there was one unruly incident reported for every 568 flights in 2022, up from one per 835 flights in 2021. The most common categorizations of incidents in 2022 were non-compliance, verbal abuse and intoxication. Physical abuse incidents remain very rare, but these had an alarming increase of 61% over 2021, occurring once every 17,200 flights.
“The increasing trend of unruly passenger incidents is worrying. Passengers and crew are entitled to a safe and hassle-free experience on board. For that, passengers must comply with crew instructions. While our professional crews are well trained to manage unruly passenger scenarios, it is unacceptable that rules in place for everyone’s safety are disobeyed by a small but persistent minority of passengers. There is no excuse for not following the instructions of the crew,” said Conrad Clifford, IATA’s Deputy Director General.
Although non-compliance incidents initially fell after the mask mandates were removed on most flights, the frequency began to rise again throughout 2022 and ended the year some 37% up on 2021. The most common examples of non-compliance were:
Smoking of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vapes and puff devices in the cabin or lavatories
Failure to fasten seatbelts when instructed
Exceeding the carry-on baggage allowance or failing to store baggage when required
Consumption of own alcohol on board
A two-pillar strategy is in place for the needed zero-tolerance approach to unruly behavior.
Regulation: Ensure governments have the necessary legal authority to prosecute unruly passengers, regardless of their state of origin and to have a range of enforcement measures that reflect the severity of the incident. Such powers exist in the Montreal Protocol 2014 (MP14), and IATA is urging all states to ratify this as soon as possible. To date, some 45 nations comprising 33% of international passenger traffic have ratified MP14.
Guidance to prevent and de-escalate incidents: Prevent incidents through collaboration with industry partners on the ground (such as airports, bars and restaurants and duty-free shops), including for example awareness campaigns on the consequences of unruly behavior. Additionally, sharing best practices, including training, for crew to de-escalate incidents when they occur. A new guidance document (pdf) was published at the beginning of 2022 gathering best practices for airlines and providing practical solutions to governments on public awareness, spot fines, and fixing jurisdiction gaps.
“In the face of rising unruly incident numbers, governments and the industry are taking more serious measures to prevent unruly passenger incidents. States are ratifying MP14 and reviewing enforcement measures, sending a clear message of deterrence by showing that they are ready to prosecute unruly behavior. For the industry’s part, there is greater collaboration. For example, as the vast majority of intoxication incidents occur from alcohol consumed prior to the flight, the support of airport bars and restaurants to ensure the responsible consumption of alcohol is particularly important.
“No one wants to stop people having a good time when they go on holiday—but we all have a responsibility to behave with respect for other passengers and the crew. For the sake of the majority, we make no apology for seeking to crack down on the bad behavior of a tiny number of travelers who can make a flight very uncomfortable for everyone else,” said Clifford.