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What is the role of the captain and flight crew in taming bad behavior?

Date: May 28, 2021

By John Cox, USA Today

We’ve all seen the reports about the increase in incidents involving unruly airline passengers during the pandemic and the massive FAA fines that have followed. What is the role of the captain and the flight crew in those incidents, and what would you advise flyers do if they notice other passengers behaving badly? Is there more the airlines or Federal Aviation Administration can do to get this situation under control?

Unruly passengers pose a direct safety threat to passengers and crew. Increasingly during the pandemic, we have seen a rise in unruly, dangerous passengers on airliners.

Airline crewmembers have rules and regulations that they must follow and so, too, must passengers.

Earlier this year, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Transportation (of which the FAA is part) and Transportation Security Administration have said all travelers must wear their masks – properly – while in the airport, during boarding, inflight, and deplaning. And yes, that rule goes for vaccinated passengers, too.

More recently, the TSA said passengers must continue doing so until Sept. 13.

The mask requirement is reasonable for the health of all onboard. It is no different than prohibiting smoking, or requiring that seatbelts be buckled when the seatbelt sign is on.

If a passenger refuses to comply with the requests of the flight attendant, then the captain will call security to remove the passenger. It is the captain’s decision whether or not a passenger is accepted for transportation.

No captain wants to have a passenger removed, however, if the safety of the flight is or could be compromised, then it is necessary.

No, it does not matter that you have paid for a seat; the captain has the authority to have you removed if you do not comply. Nor will a threat to sue change the outcome once the captain has made the decision to remove you.  You're getting off the plane. At that point, the only say you have in the matter is whether you go willingly or not.

If a passenger makes a threat, commits an act of violence or interferes with a flight crewmember in their duties they are in violation of federal law and can be prosecuted.  Prosecution can include fines and/or imprisonment. Additionally, a violator can be ban from future flights.

I fully support the strict enforcement of these rules, regulation and laws. Harsh penalties are necessary and the FAA and federal authorities are right to aggressively pursue those passengers who endanger others.

We work too hard to improve aviation safety to allow a few uncontrollable passengers to reduce safety in our aviation system.


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