While the numbers for the past year are yet to be tallied up and released, International Air Transport Association (IATA) numbers show that the number of “unruly passenger” incidents (a four-point scale ranging from behavior that is “suspicious or threatening” to “life-threatening”) rose from one in every 835 flights in 2021 to one in 568 flights by 2022.
While a large bulk of the global incidents take place on low-cost carriers in the U.S., the situation is not much better north of the border. On Jan. 3, an Air Canada (ACDVF) – Get Free Report flight between Toronto and Calgary was diverted to Winnipeg approximately halfway through the flight after a 16-year-old teen grew belligerent and started assaulting a family member.
The flight started out in Toronto and was diverted to Winnipeg.
Teenage passenger grows belligerent, has to be restrained by staff and other travelers
According to a brief report from the Royal Canadian Mountain Police (RCMP), several flight attendants and passengers had to restrain the 16-year-old from Alberta’s Grand Prairie to prevent him from further assaulting an adult family member traveling with him.
Flight 137 landed at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport (YWG) at 12:24 p.m. local time and the teen was promptly arrested by the RCMP while also being taken in for medical evaluation.
“At approximately 12:20 p.m., Winnipeg Richardson International Airport RCMP received a report of a flight diversion to Winnipeg due to an unruly passenger on board who had assaulted a passenger,” the government police agency said in a statement on the incident. “The investigation has determined that Air Canada flight #137 was en route from Toronto to Calgary, when a 16-year-old male passenger, from Grande Prairie, assaulted an adult male passenger who was identified as a family member.”
Flight attendants are sounding the alarm on in-air violence
The assaulted family member received on-the-scene help for minor injuries while no other passengers were hurt from the incident. Specifics around the incident and the charges faced by the teenager have not been released.
While this is just one incident among many, airline workers have been increasingly sounding the alarm on the risks they face on the job due to passenger violence. As JetBlue Airways (JBLU) – Get Free Report flight attendant and president of the Orlando branch of the Transportation Workers Union Local 579 told TheStreet in an interview last month, the situation has become exacerbated amid the rush of post-pandemic travel.
“As much as we want to connect travelers with their families, they also should understand that we are airline employees that would also like to connect with our families when we come home from work,” Best said. “That becomes difficult when we are subject to assault and therefore have to stop for medical care which drives delays and not only affects the operations of the airline industry but also the customers on that aircraft.”
Several unions have also called on airlines to take a harder stance on this type of behavior and issue a “one strike and ban” rule for passengers who grow violent aboard a flight.