By Exequiel Sanhueza

By definition, the disruptive passenger is one who adopts altered, violent or unruly behaviors on an aircraft on the ground or in flight that interfere with the normal duties and functions of the crew and that also disturbs the tranquility of the rest of the passengers.

In this regard, ICAO points out: The expression “unruly or disruptive passenger” has always been used in reference to those “passengers who do not respect the rules of conduct on board aircraft or who do not follow the instructions of the crew members and that way they disturb order and discipline on board. ”

Whatever the name by which it is designated, whether it is disruptive, insubordinate or disturbing, it is a passenger who alters normality within an aircraft and forces the cabin crew and the Aircraft Commander to take measures according to the protocol that each airline has.

For clarity, some of the following cases are considered to be those of disruptive passengers:

  • Failure to follow normal crew instructions, such as fastening of seat belts, the onboard smoking prohibition, not using electronic equipment during take-off and/or landing.
  • Manifest behaviors that violate morality and good customs, such as abusers, exhibitionists, pedophile.
  • Inappropriate behaviors derived from alcohol, drugs, medications or a combination of any of them, generating abuse or threats to passengers and crew members.
  • Behaviors that affect flight safety when trying to open emergency doors or windows, as well as damage the aircraft or emergency equipment
  • Behaviors that threaten their own physical integrity.
  • Refusing to comply with sanitary measures currently in use.

It has led me to write about this disturbing topic because recently the US Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), has expressed its concern due to a significant increase in incidents derived from the fact that some airline passengers have shown threatening or violent behavior when the cabin crew have required them to wear masks on board.

In addition, the FAA has initiated more than 1,300 enforcement actions against unruly passengers during the last 10 years and that is why the Agency has severely stated that: “Passengers who interfere with, physically assault, or threaten to physically assault the crew of a aircraft or anyone else on an aircraft face severe penalties, including fines of up to $35,000 and imprisonment. This dangerous behavior can distract, disrupt, and threaten the safety functions of crew members.”

These problems when they occur on board an aircraft, in short, alter the comfort of passengers, compromise flight safety and in most cases generate delays in flight departures, also generating significant losses to airlines and surely lost of transshipment passenger connections. In brief, nobody is favored with having disruptive passengers on board!

The solution to the problem lies in the education of future passengers, through posters and information at travel agencies, on web pages of air operators and wholesale sales companies and even on the back of boarding passes.

* Exequiel Sanhueza, is a retired Airline Pilot and currently a Professor at the Aeronautical Training Institute (ICA), Córdoba, Argentina.