Airlines employees face surge in passenger violence

by | Jun 15, 2021 | Aviation Accidents |

The pandemic has impacted all our lives in countless ways in the last 18 months. One that may surprise some is the uptick in violence toward flight attendants and other airline staff.

One recent example is one passenger’s attack of a Southwest Airlines flight attendant. The woman passenger repeatedly refused to follow standard in-flight instructions and then punched a flight attendant, knocking out two of her teeth. The woman was charged with battery and causing serious bodily injury.

Another recent incident involved an off-duty flight attendant who grabbed the public address microphone used by flight attendants to make announcements. The flight attendant then said to use oxygen masks when they drop into the compartment, despite no emergency.  The captain then announced he was asking for assistance from “all able-bodied men” to come to the front of the plane. It set off a struggle where passengers and crew members subdued the man.

This is a trend

In both instances, the plan had to make an unscheduled landing to remove the unruly passenger. Since the incidents occurred in the air, it is a federal matter handled by the FBI. The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it had seen a “significant increase” in disruptive or violent behavior on flights since late 2020. Now six months into 2021, the FAA has received an estimated 2,900 reports of attacks and misbehavior. About 2,200 of the incidents involved refusing to wear a facemask.

Airlines not serving alcohol

Many airlines stopped serving alcohol during the pandemic or limited it to first class. In light of the increased violence, Southwest and American postponed resuming alcohol service to reduce the violent outbursts and disorder. According to an FAA administrator, passengers must still wear masks in airports and on planes regardless of vaccination status. He added: “But this isn’t just about face masks,” Mr. Dickson said. “We’ve seen incidents related to alcohol, violence toward flight attendants and abusive behavior in general.”

Victims can take action

Whether it is the flight attendant who lost their teeth or some other employee, victims can take civil action for these unprovoked attacks by passengers. Even if that person does not go to jail, they will pay substantial fines. The airline may also need to pay damages for not providing a safe work environment for an employee.