FAA: Reports of unruly flyers drop, but still twice prepandemic levels

In 2023, the agency investigated more than 2,000 cases where passengers violated regulations

How Airline Crews Deals with Unruly Passengers – and What You Should Do

If you’re on social media, you’ve likely seen many videos of unruly airline passengers. Some yell at other flyers; others berate or threaten attendants. Most are removed from the plane.

The good news is these incidents are decreasing, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The bad news is there were still twice as many reports last year as before the pandemic.

In its latest report, the FAA said it investigated 2,075 cases where passengers violated one or more of the agency’s regulations or federal laws. While that is less than half the number reported in 2021 (5,973), it’s still more than twice the incidents in 2020 (1,009).

The worst month of 2023 was August, during which 228 reports were made.

Being reported as unruly by the flight crew can do more than just make you a TikTok star.

If warranted, the FAA will refer your case to the FBI for criminal prosecution.

“If you act out on a plane, you should just stay at home because we will come after you with serious consequences,” acting FAA administrator Billy Nolen, a former commercial airline pilot said last year. “We have zero tolerance for unruly behavior.”

FBI assistant director Luis Quesada of the Criminal Investigative Division added: “The FBI will continue to work with our FAA partners to ensure the safety of all passengers and to combat violence aboard commercial flights. We remain committed to investigating all incidents that fall within FBI jurisdiction aboard commercial flights.”

Incidents that rise to the FBI’s level generally involve assaulting another passenger or member of the crew, sexual assault or trying to access the flight deck. The bureau will also investigate if you commit any of these crimes while in the airport.

Through a partnership between the FAA and TSA, you also could lose your PreCheck screening privileges and face monetary fines.

“If you act out of line, you will wait in line,” FAA administrator Steve Dickson said on agency’s website. “Our partnership aims to promote safe and responsible passenger behavior. One unruly incident is one too many.”

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