Washington, DC (WorkersCompensation.com) – As a majority of flight attendants say they’ve had to deal with unruly passengers this year, those in the air are being passengers to not take their aggressions out on the flight crew.
But if they do, some flight attendants are preparing to fight back.
According to a recent survey from the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA Union, 85 percent of the 5,000 members surveyed said they had had to deal with unruly passengers in the first half of 2021. More than half (58 percent) reported having been involved in at least five incidents this year, and one in five (17 percent) reported experiencing at least one physical incident.
And while reporting measures are in place, more than two thirds of the flight attendants surveyed (71 percent) said no one followed up with them after they filed their incident reports. Most flight attendants answered the survey that they didn’t feel their employers were doing enough to address the rise in unruly passengers.
Because of this, the AFA is calling on the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Justice to protect passengers and crew from abusive travelers – whether they are verbally or physically abusive, or just disruptive.
“This survey confirms what we all know, the vitriol, verbal and physical abuse from a small group of passengers is completely out of control, and is putting other passengers and flight crew at risk. This is not just about masks as some have attempted to claim. There is a lot more going on here and the solutions require a series of actions in coordination across aviation,” said Sara Nelson, President of AFA-CWA, said in a statement. “It is time to make the FAA ‘zero tolerance’ policy permanent, the Department of Justice to utilize existing statute to conduct criminal prosecution, and implement a series of actions proposed by our union to keep problems on the ground and respond effectively in the event of incidents.”
Nelson said flight attendants were not willing to accept unruly passengers as the “new normal.” Findings from the survey will be shared with the FAA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, she said.
The most recent record of incidents from the FAA included 3,615 incident reports and a record number of enforcement actions.
Flight attendants want passengers to stop taking their frustrations out on them.
Nas Lewis, a flight attendant based out of Chicago and the founder of th|AIR|apy, said flight attendants have posted photos of themselves crying to the group’s Facebook page.
Flight attendants interviewed by Business Insider said they have been called obscene names, sworn at and threatened by aggressive passengers. They just want passengers to treat them like people and not take their frustrations out on the flight attendants and crew, they said.
“All the customers signed an agreement saying that they would abide by the rules when they buy their ticket, and I’ll just ask that they adhere to that. It’s really simple,” the Texas-based flight attendant told Business Insider. “We don’t want to fight about it every minute.”
But in some places, flight attendants are taking self-defense classes from the TSA to protect themselves. The TSA plans on training flight attendants this summer and fall in half-day courses first developed in 2004. Those classes were put on hold during the pandemic, but are resurging given the increase in violence towards airline flight crews.
Flight attendants are taught how to strike, stomp and subdue a violent attacker, as well as how to de-escalate a situation and how to handle difficult passengers.
Over the past year, the FAA has reported that passengers have hit flight attendants or fought them to the floor of the plane. In one incident, the FAA reported a passenger tried to open a cockpit door and repeatedly refused to do as he was told by crew members. After physically assaulting a flight attendant, he was restrained in plastic handcuffs, but freed himself and struck the flight attendant a second time.
Causes for the incidents, flight attendants said, revolve around federal requirements to wear masks on plane, and alcohol. Some airlines have gone so far as to stop alcohol service on flights now.