An Area For Debate: How Should Airlines Handle Unruly Passengers?

Should there be a change in airline strategy, when dealing with unruly passengers ?

When you are 40,000 feet in the air, and someone becomes a difficult passenger, it can be a extremely tricky scenario to know how to handle. The question, which has been bounced around the aviation industry walls for the last few years is, what policy should they implement when someone doesn’t want to cooperate?

China’s aviation industry are currently putting this question to the forefront, after two similar cases of unruly passengers emerged within the space of a week; West Air, was taxiing towards a gate at Jiangbei Airport on Monday, when a man decided to open the emergency door,  allowing the inflatable emergency slide to be left draped over the wing. And on Saturday, passengers on a plane in the Southwestern city of Kunming also opened the door on their taxiing jet which was scheduled to fly to Beijing.

Across the board, most airlines place fines on those who cause problems, but does this have enough effect?  One current option being discussed, is blacklisting those who decide to go against the aviation code of conduct. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) is allegedly keen to bring in this rule, by placing black marks on the names of unruly airline passengers.

Director of the CAAC, Li Jiaxiang, has been cited saying that unruly passengers must go on a ‘personal negative credit list’ which will affect their future air travel.  Spring airlines, have already taken it upon themselves to take a harder line, refusing to let exceptionally problematic passengers have any further travel with them. Could this become something all airlines now place a higher emphasis on?

In 2013, International Air Transport Association, IATA, published its first edition of the ‘Guidance on Unruly Passenger Prevention and Management’. And last year, they released – ‘IATA Core Principles On Unruly Passengers’. The main message behind their document being, knowing the signs of trouble before it escalates; ‘While there is no ‘one size-fits-all’ approach to preventing and managing unruly passengers, focus needs to shift from reacting to unruly passengers incidents to preventing incidents before they happen.’ Suggesting that watching signs such as a high consumption in alcohol, will stop the situation before it has even begun.

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