Last year was the worst year on the FAA’s record for unruly passenger incidents. For a while, it seemed like every day someone recorded someone else doing something stupid on a plane. Now, a year after the FAA and the airlines enacted new policies, things are looking much better. The rate of unruly passengers has been cut in half.
Last year was a rough time to be an airline traveler. If you didn’t get caught up in one of the tens of thousands of flight cancelations, there was a rare chance that someone on your plane was acting poorly. A little bit of everything has happened, from someone punching and groping flight attendants, someone starting a brawl over a seat pocket and even a few weirdos who likened themselves to major historical figures.
Back in January 2021, the FAA tracked what it called troubling incidents of passenger behavior. Bad passenger behavior seemed to be on a rise, and as a result, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson signed an order for stricter enforcement for these incidents.
Part of that enforcement includes public shaming, memes, less leniency and fines as much as the price of a new pickup per violation. Along with the policy, the number of investigations went practically off of the charts.
The airlines joined forces with the FAA with changes to their own policies. The FAA said that a number of the incidents involved people getting intoxicated on to-go alcohol at the airport before drinking even more on their flights. As a response, the FAA urged airports to stop serving to-go alcohol. Meanwhile, some airlines removed alcohol from their beverage services. Unruly passengers also got banned from some airlines after incidents.
Some of these incidents have even resulted in criminal charges for the unruly passengers.
A year after the zero tolerance policy was enacted, the FAA’s latest data shows that the incidents have been more than halved.
It appears people are getting the message that causing a disturbance on a flight isn’t worth it. Things sort of leveled off during the summer before spiking a little going into fall. 2021 closed out with an unruly passenger rate of 6.9 per 10,000 flights.
In the short time that we’ve been into 2022, there have been just 76 unruly passenger reports with only 43 mask-related incidents. The unruly passenger rate is now down to 4.9 incidents per 10,000 flights. That’s still higher than the FAA wants, and the regulator is exploring even harsher penalties like having TSA PreCheck clearances revoked to a federal no-fly list.
The FAA handles some 45,000 flights a day, so it was already rare that your flight would have an unruly passenger. Now, it’s even rarer. Of course, it’s worse for the flight crews that have to deal with these people, especially when they get physical.
Hopefully the trend continues and people continue to get calmer and hopefully a little nicer. Flying commercial can sometimes suck, but there’s never a reason to make it even worse.