29 Sep 2016

Air rage takes off on global flights

4:36 pm on 29 September 2016

Air rage reports rose worldwide last year, with cases of verbally abusive airline passengers and travellers who refused to listen to cabin crew up by almost 17 percent, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

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Alcohol or drug intoxication was identified as a factor in 23 percent of the cases, though in the vast majority of instances consumption occurred prior to boarding or from a personal supply without the crew's knowledge, said IATA, which represents about 265 of the world's airlines.

"Unruly and disruptive behaviour is simply not acceptable. The antisocial behaviour of a tiny minority of customers can have unpleasant consequences for the safety and comfort of all on board," said IATA spokesperson Alexandre de Juniac.

Last year 10,854 unruly passenger incidents were reported to IATA by airlines, up from 9316 incidents in 2014, the trade association said.

There was one incident for every 1205 flights last year, compared with one in every 1282 flights in 2014.

In some cases, planes have made emergency landings because escalating conflicts put passengers at risk. In one case, a man on a flight with US airline Southwest Airlines Co started a fight with a woman sitting in front of him in October 2015 after she reclined her seat.

Consumer advocates have said the move by airlines to increase profits by packing more customers aboard may be agitating travellers and creating safety concerns if evacuating the aircraft is necessary.

Airline officials have denied these charges.

Unruly behaviour by passengers has also taken the form of sexual assault, at times. Last month, a male passenger of Virgin America Inc was criminally charged with sexually touching a sleeping female passenger on an overnight flight to Newark, New Jersey, from Los Angeles.

- Reuters