What to Do When Passengers Behave Badly on Planes

According to the Montreal-based International Air Transport Association (IATA) – a group that promotes the world’s airlines – unruly passenger behavior is on the upswing. They cite numerous incidents in recent years, including the amazing case of a woman who went on a rampage after a United crew cut off her alcohol supply which prompted her to bite a flight attendant.

Should airline passengers take IQ tests?

So what are good passengers supposed to do if they see such antics?

When Passengers Misbehave

FareCompare has reported on some weird bad passengers incidents over the years including:

  • The SkyWest passenger who claimed he was a space alien and wanted to fly the plane
  • The allegedly drunk Qantas passenger who punched one crew member, threatened to kill another
  • A Spirit passenger who propositioned a flight attendant then groped her

In some cases, passengers intervened but for the most part they wisely let crew members do their job.

What to Do

In general, passenger disruptions are rare – according to the IATA, there was just “one unruly passenger incident for every 1,200 flights” in 2011 but that is plenty. If bad behavior occurs on your flight, follow these common sense guidelines:

1. Stay calm

If you start panicking, it’ll just add to the chaos. But yes, easier said than done.

2. If possible, calmly engage

If the bad passenger is near you and can be reasoned with, try to calm him/her down, but don’t waste time on this if the individual is out of control – simply proceed to step three.

Rampaging hordes of passengers in China

3. Press the button

Leave it to the professionally trained cabin crew. Hit the flight attendant call button and stay in your seat – but if you’re blocking a flight attendant’s access, get out of the way. Try to find an empty seat and use it.

4. Be helpful if asked

Don’t intervene unless the flight attendant requests help. If you’re the least bit unsure if you can render assistance, let someone else do it.

5. Brace yourself for delays

If the captain decides to divert the flight to drop off the passenger to law enforcement authorities, there’s nothing you can do about it but resign yourself to a delay. The good news is, you’ll probably get a voucher from the airline for the inconvenience. And a less stressful flight.


Published: December 16, 2013