Zero tolerance to unruly passengers

17 Feb 2023

For business, personal, or holiday reasons, travellers want a pleasant flight and to arrive safely at their destination. However, some passengers manifest unruly or disruptive behaviour at the airport or on the plane.

But when and most importantly, why do passengers become violent? There are multiple causes: alcohol consumption or other intoxications, travel document requirements, and unrealistic expectations regarding travel conditions. Sometimes, unexpected rules or situations along their journey add an extra layer of stress, and passengers snap. They become unruly.

This behaviour is not new but has increased over the last decades. According to EASA statistics, every 3 hours, the safety of a flight within the EU is threatened by passengers demonstrating unruly or disruptive behaviour. And at least 70% of these incidents involve some form of aggression. Once a month, the situation escalates, and planes are forced to ask for an emergency landing.

As IATA reports reveal, most ordinary incidents are mainly related to refusal to follow crew instructions, to alcohol or other intoxication. 10% of the total incidents reported in 2017 turned mostly into assaults or physical aggression acts towards aviation workers. The most severe cases – life-threatening – raised to 3%.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, with the increased level of COVID-related measures and restrictions measures, the number of incidents generated by disruptive passengers and the severity of cases in airports and aircraft increased alarmingly. More and more, it seems this phenomenon is not going to stop.

These incidents have adverse effects on passengers, workers, and employers and must be urgently addressed. All these situations need proper answers from companies, airports, authorities and states for passengers and staff can enjoy their air travel experience safely and responsibly.

Thus, the EU sectoral social partners gathered their views in a compendium – ‘Preventing and Managing Disruptive incidents in Civil Aviation’ compiling the best practices used within European civil aviation to prevent and manage acts caused by unruly and disruptive passengers against workers and other passengers. It is the first document to present European best practices based on solutions implemented by actors and authorities, alone or jointly, in the last few years.

‘With this Compendium,’– says Eoin Coates, Head of ETF Aviation Section – ‘we aim to offer our aviation workers tried and tested solutions they can use when facing disruptive passengers and the issues caused by their actions. As European Social Partners in aviation, it is also our way to prove that targeted prevention and effective management reduce the risks of aggression, violent acts, and offences in airports and on aircraft.

Our goal with this Compendium is not to analyse different legal sanctions existing at the national level against the actions of UPAX. Instead, we focus on concrete, tested solutions that aim to ensure the safety of the flight, passengers, and aviation workers.’

This Compendium is the final step in a joint project for which the aviation partners in Social Dialogue worked together to create a safe environment for workers and passengers in the airport and the aircraft. Last autumn, they decided to stand together and say NO to the abusive behaviour against airport aviation workers.