Incidents involving unruly passengers in the United States are decreasing.
But the good news may end there.
On average, there were about 500 reports of unruly passengers per month in 2021, according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. In the first three months of 2022, this number fell to about 350 reports per month, according to FAA statistics.
That’s progress, especially considering that there are far more flights than in early 2021, when incident reports reached an all-time peak.
However, it’s still a far cry from the number of in-flight outbursts logged before the pandemic, which from 2014 to 2019 happened about 10 times a month, according to CNBC’s calculations.
Why unruliness skyrocketed
In 2021, nearly 3 out of 4 unruly passenger reports were related to mask compliance, according to the FAA, which monitors flights that depart from or arrive in the United States.
For some, refusing to wear a mask became both a political statement and a marker of personal autonomy, said Sharona Hoffman, co-director of the Law-Medicine Center at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
Many of these people do not want to be told what to do, and flying is “an environment where they are told what to do — all the time — for hours.”
Rage in the not-so-friendly skies is also a manifestation of anger happening on the ground, she said. For every video of an airline passenger losing it on a flight, there are others at grocery stories, school board meetings and banks.
Covid measures have added to the stress of flying, said Hoffman. Meals, drinks and snacks were taken away at one point, “so all the things that used to distract and entertain people were removed,” she said.
Bryan Del Monte, president of The Aviation Agency, a marketing company for the aviation industry, agreed stress may be behind the increase in unruly behavior.
“However, I’m under a fair…
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