If you believe that well-known criminal sanctions can deter bad behavior, then you should help disseminate the below article. Mr. Shiffer of the Star Tribune, intrigued by a single incident of air rage, researched the numbers of incidents and the actions taken by the FAA. The flight attendants, who bear the brunt of these attacks, may be interested in the record; however, the deterrent value may or may not be maximized by its further distribution of this story.
What are the author’s findings?
First, the number of industry reports to the FAA averaged about 213 incidents each year. Surprisingly, the record seems to be trending downward in the last few years. At the same time over a 45 month period (a little less than 8,000 reports to the FAA), only 258 enforcement actions were initiated by the safety agency lawyers.
There must be extenuating circumstances for an action rate of 30%; some of the passengers must have provided convincing information about why their behavior should not be penalized. That 70% of the reports were not even worthy of civil penalties is not intuitively understandable.
Second, the list of specific incidents, which the FAA prosecuted, is telling of the sorts of problems with which the cabin crew must deal and suggest that the FAA might be more aggressive in their actions:
· $38,500 penalty for a passenger on a IAH-ORD flight; he “jumped out of his seat, pinned a flight attendant against an exit door and tried to get out of the aircraft”. He served time and then asked the FAA to reduce his penalty because of a mental health crisis.
· $34,125 for a passenger on a SHA-ORD flight decided that the fasten seat belt light did not apply to him. When the flight attendant asked him to buckle up, he “swore and spit, and slugged the flight attendant with the buckle on the end of his seat belt.”
· $34,000 fine for a passenger on an IAD-ROM flight when told she could not smoke, she attacked the cabin attendants and threatened to set fire to a pillow. Her defense was Xanax, alcohol and altitude.
· $13,000 penalty for a passenger on a Moscow- New York flight was observed as being inebriated and when the flight attendant refused to serve him, he used a bottle in his carry-on. After that bottle was forcibly taken from the customer and 2nd emerged from his “stash” the cabin crew tried to get hold of that one. In response, he “screamed and swore. He threw a bottle, then his meal tray, and a piece of luggage. Other passengers were moved away from him.” The flight was interrupted to turn him over to the police.
· And several other incidents.
One of the most effective actions, which the FAA takes when it issues comparable actions against airlines, is to release a statement to the press. Such publicity would certainly not hurt.
With the known phenomena of tensions attributable to passing through the security gauntlet plus anxiety which some passengers ascribe to flying may as well as reported angry reactions in response to denser seating , the pre-flight pressures may be contributing to greater sources of air rage. It is open to question whether these emotions are controllable, but to the extent that they are, added information about the consequences may help and are not likely to hurt.
The job of flight attendants is difficult already; dealing with abusive, enraged passengers must be traumatic. The above story (which has not been independently verified) strongly suggests that the necessary priorities and resources should be allocated to increase the enforcement of passenger interference incidents.
There is an extensive section in Order 8900.1 to guide the field staff in handling these incidents. It might be worthwhile to reconsider the thresholds for action established in that FAA order.
A publicity campaign, reminding the traveling public about the penalties which will be levied, if they are found to have violated the rules, would constitute a powerful way to reinforce the need to behave. AFA would love to do some Public Service Announcements with Secretary Foxx and/or Administrator Huerta.
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