ADDIS ABABA – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says unruly passenger incidents increased in 2022 compared to 2021, calling for more states to take the necessary authority to prosecute passengers under Montreal Protocol 2014 (MP14).
The IATA released a new analysis with latest figures today showing 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.
The report says 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,” said Conrad Clifford, IATA’s Deputy Director General.
“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.”
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 in 2021.
Per IATA analysis, the most common examples of non-compliance were smoking of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vapes and puff devices in the cabin or lavatories.
Other examples include failure to fasten seatbelts when instructed, exceeding the carry-on baggage allowance or failing to store baggage when required, and consumption of own alcohol on board.
Two-pillar strategy to prevent unruly passengers
The global Airlines alliance has proposed a two-pillar strategy needed for a zero-tolerance approach to unruly behavior.
The first one exercising the existing regulation particularly the Montreal Protocol 2014 (MP14).
“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,” IATA said, urging all states to ratify this as soon as possible.
To date, some 45 nations comprising 33% of international passenger traffic have ratified MP14.
The other proposed piller is Guidance to prevent and de-escalate incidents which the IATA says key to 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.
A new guidance document 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,” Clifford said.
According to IATA’s Deputy Director General, 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,” Clifford said.
“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.”