“Oh, behave,” said the iconic character Austin Powers.
That’s just not happening enough in the previously friendly skies of the airlines’ world these days.
Passengers are becoming hooligans, especially when the issue of mask-wearing is broached, and airline industry groups, flight attendants and lawmakers want the government to do more to stop it.
The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday said it has received approximately 3,100 reports of unruly passenger behavior since the start of the year.
A couple of examples, per CNBC:
- A JetBlue Airways flight bound for New York returned to the Dominican Republic in early February after a passenger allegedly refused to wear a facemask, threw an empty alcohol bottle and food, struck the arm of one flight attendant, and grabbed the arm of another. (The FAA fined the passenger 32,750.)
- A passenger allegedly punched a Southwest Airlines flight attendant last month. The flight attendant lost two teeth after she was struck, according to her labor union.
Just to be clear: Unruly passenger behavior or interfering with flight attendant duties is against federal law.
Via CNBC, an official is sounding the alarm.
“It’s out of control,” said Paul Hartshorn, spokesman for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. “It’s really coming to the point where we have to defend ourselves.”
Sara Nelson, a labor leader and president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, points to the flight attendants’ well being.
“Even if it doesn’t rise to the level of a physical altercation, just the constant bickering and name-calling and disrespect, that wears away at people,” she said.
Most of the cases involve masks on board, which the Biden administration mandated earlier this year, though airlines have required since spring of 2020.
Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., plans to introduce legislation before July “that would cover abusive passenger behavior on board flights” and against TSA officers, spokesman Chip Unruh told CNBC.