In Air Rage, aviation expert witness Capt. Bob Norris writes:
The problem appears to be growing, based on limited data from a few airlines; it is obvious that the industry needs a central database of uniform reporting to measure scope and changes in the incidence rate.
• It is a multifaceted problem, requiring cooperative efforts from many different directions–e.g., airlines, law enforcement, prosecutors and judges, not to mention public awareness. Tough prosecution and sentencing can be an effective deterrent.
• There is no single reason for disruptive behavior. Some contributing factors include alcohol, smoking bans, crowding, and lengthy flights. Psychologically, the loss of control, problems with authority figures, and “loss of entitlement” (i.e., a VIP having to obey the rules) seem to be recurrent themes.
• Flight attendants bear the brunt of disruptive passenger events, crewmembers can suffer severe injuries from the most violent offenders.
• Airlines are developing training programs to deal with disruptive passengers, although not all carriers have responded with equal vigor to the problem. Small commuter aircraft present special problems since the cockpit may not have any separation from passenger seats; but the small cabin area also can constrain certain disruptive behavior.
• Airlines, like drinking establishments, may find themselves liable and negligent if a person to whom they have served excessive alcohol causes injury to others, even after they have left the destination airport (i.e., while driving). Airlines may want to consider limiting the amount of alcohol served.
• Convicted criminals and deportees pose a special risk; and sometimes they are put on airplanes without adequate safeguards, supervision, or even notification to the crew.
• Pilots and flight attendants need to be trained in confrontation management, which requires both psychological and, to a lesser extent, physical skills. (Crewmembers cannot and should not be expected to deal with a violent passenger the way a policeman or security officer would.)
• U.S. federal statutes and regulations, plus the Tokyo Convention of 1963, make it illegal to interfere with aircraft crewmembers in performance of their duties. These laws must be enforced to the fullest extent. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is reviewing international laws on this topic to insure that action is taken against offenders when they arrive at their airport regardless of the aircraft country of registration.
• Representatives of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys and the General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation need to follow up with gave commitments that their agencies would devote the resources necessary to prosecute these cases.