According to the latest FAA data, travel-related unruly incidents have plummeted by 50% since their highs in early 2021 which coincides with the launch of a more aggressive anti-violence campaign from the agency.
When travel started to once again climb in 2020 after bottoming out because of the COVID-19 pandemic it brought with it a nasty new type of passenger: the unruly traveler.
Throughout the rest of 2020 and into the early parts of 2021 unruly passengers skyrocketed with many violent incidents occurring in the air and against flight crews charged with enforcing controversial face mask policies.
At its peak, unruly incidents were reported at over 12 incidents per 10,000 flights, having risen to astonishing levels that took the country by surprise and made life as a flight attendant extremely difficult – even depressing.
In most cases, unruly passenger incidents directly involved face mask violations, and many times alcohol was involved.
The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, had to act and in early 2021 when violent encounters were at their peak, the regulatory agency took action by instituting a series of countermeasures designed to reduce the occurrence of such events.
Thus far, the measures seem to have worked as the latest FAA data shows more than a 50% drop in unruly incidents since the policies and measures were implemented.
The FAA’s anti-violence campaign was a multi-pronged approach leveraging both punitive and educational activities. Specifically, their actions included:
- A new zero-tolerance policy announced
- Massive increase in fines against unruly passengers
- Meme-based public education campaign
- A series of four public service announcements over the course of the summer, fall and holiday travel seasons
- A host of actions like podcasts, press releases, YouTube videos, blogs posts and more
For example, the fines for unruly behavior climbed to nearly $40,000 dollars, up from $25,000. A popular YouTube video used kids to remind adults to grow up and meme style PSAs were publicized including the one below:
Additionally, most airlines took more aggressive stances with unruly incidents almost certainly leading to a lifetime ban from the airline.
The multi-pronged approach seems to have yielded the desired result as incidents per 10,000 flights are down over 50% while flights are up over the same period. In other words, more people are traveling, but fewer people are engaging in unruly behavior making the skies safer for passengers and flight crews.
But, is it enough yet? Of course not, but progress is progress and the FAA’s countermeasures appear to be having a positive effect. Let’s hope this trend continues.