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New statistics from the FAA show that unruly behavior on airplanes is still on the rise

Airplane generic
Posted at 12:59 PM, Jun 29, 2021

On Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration reported that it's continuing to see a disturbing increase in reports regarding unruly passengers on planes.

According to statistics published on the FAA's website, the agency has opened 491 investigations in response to reports of unruly passengers so far in 2021.

That represents the most investigations the FAA has opened in a single year since 1995. Previously, the single-year record for most unruly passenger investigations came in 2004, when it conducted 310 investigations.

The FAA says it has received 3,201 reports of unruly passengers this year — a number that has more than doubled since early May.

So far, the FAA says it has taken enforcement in 61 instances in 2021.

The increase in bad behavior led FAA Administrator Steve Dickson to extend a zero-tolerance policy the agency adopted in January. That policy forgoes "warnings or counseling" and instead focuses on legal enforcement for anyone who "assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members."

"Flying is the safest mode of transportation and I signed this order to keep it that way," Dickson said in a statement in January.

The zero-tolerance policy was initially supposed to remain in place through March. Upon extending the order on March 16, Dickson did not give a target date for the order's termination.

The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the increase in bad behavior on airplanes. Several media reports have indicated that disputes on planes have started as arguments over mask use.

In May, a Southwest flight attendant said she had two teeth knocked out when a passenger attacked her in an attack that started when she attempted to enforce a mask mandate.

Earlier this month, the Transportation Security Administration said it planned to restart self-defense training for flight crews. The training will teach employees how to identify and deter potential threats and apply self-defense techniques against an attacker.