How Do Cabin Crew Deal With Disruptive Passengers?
Patricia Green explains the responsibilities Flight Attendants hold when dealing with unruly passengers.
13 Nov 2017
Written by Patricia Green
A disruptive passenger is one who is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, who disobeys safety or security instructions and displays threatening or abusive behaviour.
Most disruptive passenger incidents result in delays and disruptions to the flight for passengers and crew.
In 2016, the CAA reported that there were 418 flights with reported incidents, the highest in 5 years.
It is illegal for an intoxicated person (or under the influence of drugs) to board a flight and, get drunk or take drugs on a flight or consume alcohol that is not bought or given out on the aircraft. However, even sober passengers can become aggressive and disruptive.
Other causes of disruptive passengers are prescription drugs, along with anxiety, fear of flying and jet lag.
One major issue is that alcohol is available 24 hours a day at the airport prior to a flight, and passengers may drink a considerable amount before they fly and may bring alcohol on the aircraft. If free alcohol is served on board, there is a limit to how much is given to a passenger and this will be determined by the Cabin Crew.
If a passenger became aggressive over a refused request, the cabin crew will try and diffuse the situation by suggesting a soft drink for the meantime, hoping that the passenger may fall asleep.
Cabin crew are trained to spot potential disruptive passengers and take security training as well as conflict management, self-defence and restraint training.
A disruptive passenger will first receive a ‘warning’ from the cabin crew and the refusal to comply may result in being restrained and arrested on landing.
If the passenger is endangering the safety of the passengers, crew or aircraft, a diversion to the nearest airport will be made to have the passenger arrested. In the UK, this can result in a £5000 fine and 2 years in prison and 5 years, if endangering safety. If the aircraft is diverted, the costs can be passed on to the passenger which can be anywhere between £10,000 to £80,000.
Airlines can also ban disruptive passengers from travelling on their aircraft.
In moves to reduce the number of disruptive passengers, limiting the availability of alcohol at the airport has been discussed as well as trials on limiting alcohol on the aircraft or having cameras fitted to monitor passenger behaviour.