Survey exhibits most flight attendants have handled unhealthy conduct

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Flight attendants are handing out refreshments on a jam-packed Delta Airlines flight scheduled for Friday, April 21.

Kent Nishimura | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Verbal attacks. Kick seat. Throw garbage on the crew.

These are some of the incidents that flight attendants have faced by passengers this year. According to a union poll released Thursday, 84 percent of flight attendants had to deal with unruly passengers this year, and 17 percent of them have had a physical incident.

The Federal Aviation Administration has received more than 3,600 reports of recalcitrant passengers so far this year, nearly three-quarters of those involving passengers who refuse to adhere to the federal mask mandate, the agency said this week. Failure to follow flight crew instructions is against the law.

Sixty percent of those who said they had a physical incident on board said law enforcement had been asked to meet their fleet, as did a third of those who noticed a verbal incident, according to the Association of Flight’s survey Attendants.

“This survey confirms what we all know about the vitriol, verbal and physical abuse of a small”
Group of passengers is completely out of control, endangering other passengers and the flight crew, “union president Sara Nelson said in a statement.

She called on the FAA to make its “zero tolerance” policy permanent.

Airlines and unions last month urged the Justice Department to bring criminal charges against violent behavior by passengers.

AFA, the largest flight attendants union, said it collected responses from nearly 5,000 cabin crew members on 30 airlines between June 25 and July 14.

Earlier this year, the FAA announced a zero tolerance policy for unruly passenger behavior. As of Tuesday, the agency announced that it had opened 610 investigations and 95 enforcement actions. Flight attendants say not every case is reported, so incidents from recalcitrant travelers could be higher than reported to the FAA.

Flight attendants said they believed there were multiple causes for the incidents, including alcohol consumption, flight disruptions, as well as the mask mandate and safety reminders, the union said.

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines postponed plans to sell alcohol on board in May due to the increase in bad behavior on airplanes. This month, a flight attendant from the southwest lost two teeth and suffered facial injuries after being hit by a passenger, her union said.

On Monday, American Airlines updated its captain’s boarding announcement script, reminding travelers to follow instructions from crew members and reminding themselves that the consumption of personal alcohol carried on board flights is against federal regulations and is strictly prohibited, ”read an employee email verified by CNBC.

Pilots were also instructed to remind travelers that refusing to wear a mask could mean they cannot fly or face fines.

In April, the Transportation Security Administration extended the mask mandate for air travel and other forms of travel until September 14th.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week overturned previous guidelines, saying that due to the rapid spread of the Covid Delta variant indoors, even vaccinated people should wear masks, which increases the chances that the federal government will mandate for Air travel extended again.

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