5 Ways to Deal with Bad Passengers on Planes

It often seems a week doesn’t pass without a new bad passenger story. The latest involves a man who became so disruptive on a JetBlue flight to Las Vegas – kicking and screaming – that the pilot diverted to Detroit where he was reportedly hospitalized (it’s unclear if he’ll face charges).

LISTEN: Rick Seaney recalls his own ‘bad passenger’ experiences.

Unruly Passenger Rates Rise

According to an international airline association, there’s been an increase in unruly passengers incidents in recent years with 8,000 reported in 2013 alone. Yes, a small number compared to the all who fly but there’s no denying there are problems. I also think they can be fixed.

How to Reverse the Trend of Bad Passengers

Some of these ideas are more serious than others but all merit consideration. Especially regulations concerning alcohol since this seems a factor in countless incidents.

1. Limit drinks on planes: Allow two drinks per passenger on cross-country flights. Flight attendants could entertain polite requests to go over the limit but they could also veto any drinks depending on a passenger’s condition upon boarding.

The dos and don’ts of drinking on planes

2. Rowdy and quiet zones: Some flights turn into party planes (think Vegas or Super Bowl). Let them have their fun within reason with a noisy or rowdy section in the back, and a quiet zone in front. Passengers who don’t care where they sit could form a buffer zone (and maybe get a perk like a free checked-bag for doing this).

3. Enforced time-outs: Those who disobey crew members would be put in some kind of time-out. A further violation could possibly result in restraints. Note: Seatmates of the violator would be given a say in this, and there have been occasions where out-of-control passengers have been duct taped to seats by fellow passengers.

4. Better training for crew members: We know at least some (and maybe most) flight attendants get a kind of crisis management training but clearly more wouldn’t hurt. Plus, training on how to spot a troubled passenger and diffusing the situation before it erupts.

5. Keep passengers busy, happy: Although the informal Southwest model of having fun on flights was not meant to curb bad behavior, it just might do that. Passengers have long enjoyed flight attendants’ impromptu comedy routines and safety demonstration songs, so who’s to say a potential problem passenger won’t get caught up in the fun and games and be too busy laughing to make a scene. Well, I can dream.


Published: June 17, 2014