In recent times, the number of unruly passenger incidents on flights witnessed a significant rise in 2022 compared to the previous year, according to a recent analysis released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The report also highlighted the urgent need for more states to adopt measures under the Montreal Protocol 2014 (MP14) to prosecute offenders.
According to IATA, there was a notable increase in unruly incidents, with one reported incident occurring for every 568 flights in 2022, compared to one incident per 835 flights in 2021. The most prevalent types of incidents in 2022 included non-compliance, verbal abuse, and intoxication.
While physical abuse incidents remained relatively rare, they experienced a worrisome surge of 61 per cent compared to 2021, transpiring once every 17,200 flights, IATA revealed.
The initial decline in non-compliance incidents, following the removal of mask mandates on most flights, was short-lived. Throughout 2022, the frequency of non-compliance incidents rose steadily, ultimately ending the year with a 37 per cent increase over 2021, the report stated.
IATA highlighted several common examples of unruly passenger behaviour, including smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vapes, and puff devices in the cabin or lavatories; failure to fasten seatbelts when instructed; exceeding carry-on baggage limits or failing to store baggage properly; and consumption of personal alcohol on board.
Expressing concern over the escalating trend, Conrad Clifford, Deputy Director General of IATA, emphasized the need for stricter measures to prevent unruly incidents. “Governments and the industry are taking more serious steps to address this issue. States are ratifying MP14 and enhancing enforcement measures, sending a clear message that unruly behaviour will not be tolerated,” Clifford stated.
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When questioned about the potential causes behind the surge in unruly incidents post the COVID-19 pandemic, Clifford admitted that he was currently investigating the trend. These remarks were made on the sidelines of the IATA Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit.
The rising number of unruly passenger incidents underscores the importance of coordinated efforts by governments, airlines, and industry stakeholders to ensure the safety and security of air travel. Stricter enforcement, combined with effective deterrents, will be essential in curbing these disruptive behaviours and maintaining a positive flying experience for all passengers.