Have you ever found yourself on a flight stuck between a group of noisy hens or deer? Have you ever wondered what would happen if their drunken antics took a bad turn?
Most of the time it is good-natured frivolity, but not always. This week, cabin crew on an easyJet flight from Manchester to Tenerife were forced to restrain two passengers after a fight broke out in the sky. It took four crew members to investigate the dispute, with one of the passengers arrested on arrival, leaving the staff visibly shaken by the ordeal.
Following the incident, easyJet confirmed that its cabin crew are “trained to assess all situations” and act “swiftly and appropriately to ensure that the safety of the flight and other passengers is not compromised at all times. “.
However, it’s not just the passengers who cause inconvenience. Two Air France pilots were recently suspended after a physical altercation in the cockpit. The captain and first officer exchanged blows during a flight between Geneva and Paris, forcing cabin crew members to step in and remain in the cockpit until the flight landed safely.
Across the Atlantic, US airlines have seen a record number of annoying passengers since the beginning of 2021, with many incidents resulting in controversy over the rules of masks. Earlier this year, two passengers accused of “unruly behavior” were hit with the largest fines ever proposed by the US Federal Aviation Administration.
Although such accidents are rare, according to the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), disruptive passenger behavior is one of the main reasons for aircraft diversions. This raises the question of the guidelines that airline staff should follow when a passenger, group of passengers or even the pilot is disturbing. How do they calm or restrain the passengers? What penalties can be imposed on bad behavior? We took a closer look.
What are the consequences of disrupting a flight?
Five years of imprisonment is the most severe sentence that can be imposed for endangering the safety of an aircraft. But behavior considered unacceptable in the AAC guidelines includes:
Being intoxicated (from alcohol or drugs)
Refusal to allow security checks
Disobeying safety or security instructions
Using threatening, abusive or abusive words
Endanger the safety of the aircraft or another person
Having a few too many beers before your flight could prove expensive. While “drunken acts” carry a maximum fine of £ 5,000 and two years in prison, the disruption could lead to the hijacking of a plane. A typical diversion could cost up to £ 80,000, a charge the disturbing passenger could be told to cover.
Under UK law, being drunk on a plane is a crime. Passengers can only drink alcohol served by the cabin crew – while you can take duty-free alcohol with you on the flight, you are not allowed to open it or drink it.
However, this does not mean a brake on the number of drinks served per passenger on board. When traveling with airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, BA and Lufthansa, alcoholic beverages are free and can be requested at any time, as long as the passenger does not disturb.
A spokesperson for the CAA said: “Everyone wants their vacation flights to be pleasant and hassle-free. Drunk and abusive behavior on an airplane is totally unacceptable. Not only does it upset everyone else, but it can also jeopardize flight safety.
“Criminal charges should be filed more often against offenders to act as a deterrent: passengers need to know that they will face the full weight of the law if they are found guilty of disorderly behavior.”
The Airport Operators Association added that UK airports take the issue of disturbing passengers very seriously. A spokesperson added: “As the data show, it is only a very small number of people who are behaving irresponsibly, but we continue to face the small minority that ruins it for the majority. This is why airports have taken significant measures to limit and monitor disturbing behaviors, including alcohol consumption ”.
Has the number of accidents increased?
According to IATA, the aviation association, statistics from industry and regulatory authorities such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) indicate a long-term trend of increasing frequency and severity of unruly passengers.
Between 2018 and 2020, IATA began implementing a new global reporting system for security-related incidents; Unfortunately, this coincided with the onset of the global pandemic as air traffic collapsed.
As a result, there were very few reports of incidents in 2020, but officials began to see an increase in 2021, and for the first seven months, the accident rate was 1 for every 1,340 flights. Non-compliance, including mask-related incidents, accounted for 49% of reported cases. Prior to this, the last full year of unruly and disruptive passenger reporting was 2017, where 1 incident was reported for every 1,053 flights.
Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe, said: “While we should remember that passenger nuisance incidents are still relatively rare, they rank among the top three cabin crew concerns and any incident is one too many. “.
Where are the most common accidents?
While no official data is available since post-pandemic aviation resumed, this week’s crash on the Tenerife route could be evidence of a long-term trend. In 2017, the cabin crew told Panorama’s Plane Drunk that the worst routes for drunk passengers were all to Spain: Alicante, Ibiza and Palma, Mallorca. It is therefore not surprising that British holidaymakers were previously named the most undisciplined by the Spanish Aviation Safety and Security Agency.
A 2018 survey of 7,901 Which? Members found that Ryanair, which has since emerged as a champion of reliable post-pandemic travel, had the most cases of disturbed passengers. The budget carrier tops the table with one in six passengers (of those surveyed) having been hit by a nuisance passenger in the past year. Ryanair was followed by Thomas Cook (15% of passengers), Tui (14%) and easyJet (13%).
How can airlines handle disturbing passengers?
While in flight, it is up to the cabin crew to deal with difficult behavior, and the worst examples can lead to the police backup call when the plane lands. In really severe cases, the plane could divert and make an unscheduled landing (depending on how close it is to the departure airport, this could also mean the plane is making a U-turn) so that authorities may encounter the flight and the unruly passenger could be arrested, fined, charged or prosecuted.
The IATA guide on handling unruly passengers includes escalation reduction techniques and responsible alcohol service during flights. In an extreme example, the crew may be forced to restrain passengers. If two people were “heavily drunk” on a flight, a “lockdown situation” could occur without other passengers being able to leave their seats.
A UK-based company called Securicare sells passenger restraint kits that could indicate what the cabin crew might have on hand if such an event occurred: rigid cuffs, not unlike those used by the police, to flexible cuffs, such as cable cord.
How do airline staff locate drunk passengers?
The cabin crew has some cunning tactics to determine if a passenger is drunk and how drunk. Flight attendants could use charm and humor to begin with. One told CNN, for example, of his recollection of a colleague doing the following:
“He asked the gentleman who drank a lot: ‘Do you think I’m pretty?’ He said, ‘Oh honey, you’re beautiful’, and she said, ‘You’re drunk, you’re left out.’ “
They also pay attention to typical cues: passengers mumbling, swaying, or going to the bathroom more often than usual, for example. IATA members use the US National Restaurants Association’s traffic light system to detect intoxication. According to the system, green includes sociable and relaxed behavior, yellow shifts to signs such as arguing or using bad language, while falling or not being able to sit properly falls into red.