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American Airlines Cracks Down on Unruly Behavior in Latest Policy Update

Date: September 17, 2021

By Zach Griff, The Points Guy

Consider yourself warned. If you’re going to misbehave on an American Airlines flight, you’ll be in violation of the carrier’s conditions of carriage.

On Friday, the Fort Worth-based airline updated its contract that governs all ticket sales to add more language around unruly behavior. In the section titled “passenger responsibilities,” American now spells out that “abusive” or “harassing” behavior could lead to a temporary or permanent flight ban.

Additionally, the airline expects “appropriate” and “respectful” behavior to other passengers, crew or “any American Airlines team member.” Previously, the conditions of carriage only specified “airport team members.”

With this change, you’ll want to watch your language and behavior when speaking to AA’s reservations department and any other non-airport touchpoints in order to comply with the updated conditions of carriage. 

In confirming the updates to TPG, a carrier spokesperson offered the following statement,

We expect our customers to comply with our policies when they choose to fly with us, and we take action when that is not the case. The policies outlined in our contract of carriage are designed to promote the safety and well-being of everyone who travels with us, including both our customers and team members.

American’s conditions of carriage update comes as airlines nationwide are dealing with a sharp uptick in the number of unruly passengers, many of which involve violations of the federal mask mandate.

Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reached a major milestone in fines against unruly passengers — the agency has now fined passengers a total of over $1 million in 2021.

Passengers who’ve received the highest penalties have been alleged by the FAA to have physically assaulted flight attendants and other passengers, snorted cocaine inflight and refused to follow the federal mask mandate.

In January, the FAA announced a zero-tolerance policy for unruly behavior aboard flights to help quell the latest round of disruptive behavior. In addition to the $1 million in fines, the FAA announced in August that it had received nearly 3,900 reports of unruly passenger behavior, including about 2,870 that involved passengers refusing to wear face masks.

In May, Delta Air Lines also tightened its stance against unruly behavior. In an update to its SkyMiles program terms and conditions, travelers who threaten, intimidate or otherwise cross a line with Delta employees could have their accounts closed. That includes the possible forfeiture of all accumulated mileage credit, any unused and upcoming award or upgrade certificates and all other associated membership benefits, including Medallion elite status. You could also be banned from flying with Delta in the future.

Though unruly behavior continues to grab headlines, it’s important to note that it represents only a small fraction of the total number of travelers taking to the skies. “The vast majority of customers follow our policies when traveling on American,” an airline spokesperson told TPG.

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