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How often are unruly airline passengers kicked off flights?

Through June of this year, 41 travelers had been formally cited by the FAA for unruliness. Too many or too few?

By Rich_Maloof Jul 26, 2013 4:44PM
At a bare minimum, 129 unruly passengers were kicked off airline flights last year, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Passenger violations for unruliness don’t necessarily involve security risks. They are characterized by bad behavior — anything from kicking a seat to arguing with a flight attendant — that ticks off a crew member enough to have the passenger booted.
blackred/Getty Images
An accurate count of how many passengers are kicked off annually is difficult to calculate, The New York Times noted this week, because the FAA tracks only incidents that are formally reported by the airlines.
 
As of June 30 of this year, 41 travelers had been formally cited by the FAA for unruliness. 
 
 
After an airline boots a passenger, the FAA can hit the traveler where it hurts. In 2000, a bill enabled the agency to levy a fine of up to $25,000 per violation in unruly-passenger cases. 
 
The FAA’s record of enforcement actions against unruly passengers peaked in the years following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In 2002, reported incidents hit a new high at 306. 
 
The International Airline Transport Association has published guidelines for airlines to use in the prevention and management of unruly passengers. It specifies this short list of behaviors — that is, behaviors without specific links to security violations — that can get you kicked off a flight and handed over to police at the gangway:
 
•  Assaults, threats, intimidation or interference with a crew member in performance of his or her duties aboard an aircraft being operated. 
 
•  Disruptive behavior due to alcohol consumption. 
 
•  Alcohol-related disturbance created by passenger. 
 
•  Consumption of alcoholic beverages not served by a crew member. 
 
•  Alcohol service to passengers who appear to be intoxicated. 
 
•  Failure to follow instructions given by a crew member regarding compliance with passenger safety regulations, such as: 
 
  - Smoking in the lavatory. 
  - Tampering with, disabling or destroying smoke detectors installed in any aircraft 
lavatory. 
  - Failing to keep seat belt fastened while the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign is lighted. 
  - Operating an electronic device when prohibited. 
 
 
However, the list of potential violations is actually much longer. Airlines can institute their own behavior codes and may see fit to boot a passenger for a broad range of additional causes, such as engaging in a physical altercation, failing to comply with electronic device requirements, or, say, getting naked.
 
Some infractions may seem unfair; just ask film director Kevin Smith, who was reportedly kicked off a Southwest flight for being overweight. Then there’s the dirtball who was forced off a flight — and into custody — for watching child porn on a Delta flight. The man later pled guilty to possession of child pornography.
 
In the post-9/11 world, airlines have the right and even the responsibility to demand compliance with a strict set of rules. In return, they could try not treating coach passengers like a horde of animals in need of taming. If only a faction of the traveling public didn’t give them so much material to work with.
 
 

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Photo: blackred/Getty Images

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