AGENDA NEWS RELEASE Background
- This was ALPA's first International Conference on Disruptive Airline Passengers and is part of its ongoing effort to protect the traveling public, flight attendants, and pilots from violence in commercial aircraft.
- The problem of disruptive passengers has become one of national interest as the media have reported some very high-profile examples of disruptive and dangerous behavior by passengers. (Related ALPA News Releases #96.38, #96.74, and Testimony Given on June 11, 1998 before the Subcommittee on Aviation)
By any standard, the conference was an outstanding success:
- There were 161 registered participants at the conference, including representatives from airlines, employee groups, regulatory agencies, and the law enforcement and legal professions.
- Panel discussions were informative and provocative, followed by many illuminating questions from the audience.
- The conference generated much interest from the news media, ranging from industry publications to network television news crews.
Highlights and Points of Interest
- The problem appears to be growing, based on limited data from a few airlines; but we need a central database of uniform reporting to measure scope and changes in the incidence rate.
- It is a multifaceted problem, requiring cooperative efforts from many different directions--e.g., airlines, law enforcement, prosecutors and judges, not to mention public awareness. Tough prosecution and sentencing can be an effective deterrent.
- There is no single reason for disruptive behavior. Some contributing factors include alcohol, smoking bans, crowding, and lengthy flights. Psychologically, the loss of control, problems with authority figures, and "loss of entitlement" (i.e., a VIP having to obey the rules) seem to be recurrent themes.
- Flight attendants bear the brunt of disruptive passenger events, although often a pilot must be sent back to deal with it, further endangering safety. Crew members can suffer severe injuries from the most violent offenders.
- Airlines are developing training programs to deal with disruptive passengers, although not all carriers have responded with equal vigor to the problem. Small commuter aircraft present special problems since the cockpit may not have any separation from passenger seats; but the small cabin area also can constrain certain disruptive behavior.
- Airlines, like drinking establishments, may find themselves liable and negligent if a person to whom they have served excessive alcohol causes injury to others, even after they have left the destination airport (i.e., while driving). Airlines may want to consider limiting alcohol service.
- Convicted criminals and deportees pose a special risk; and sometimes they are put on airplanes without adequate safeguards, supervision, or even notification to the crew.
- Pilots and flight attendants should be trained in confrontation management, which requires both psychological and, to a lesser extent, physical skills. (Crewmembers cannot and should not be expected to deal with a violent passenger the way a policeman or security officer would.)
- U.S. federal statutes and regulations, plus the Tokyo Convention of 1963, make it illegal to interfere with aircraft crewmembers in performance of their duties. These laws must be enforced to the fullest extent. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is reviewing international laws on this topic.
- Representatives of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys and the General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation gave commitments that their agencies would devote the resources necessary to prosecute these cases.
ALPA CONTACTS: John Mazor, Bob Flocke (703) 481-4440