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Unruly passengers – Research and Reality?

The topic of the post last week here at the blog of Lund University School of Aviation was unruly passengers and that got a lot of attention and interest. That post can be found here – link.

Given this attention and that this is an important topic for cabin crew and everyone who interacts with passengers in the aviation industry, a return to the topic seemed reasonable. This time I decided to do a bit of a literature search to see what there is in regards to published research on the topic. While the experiences of crew, staff and airlines that suffer the consequences of the unruly behaviour of passengers should be in focus, as well as how to manage such situations, the question was to what extent this has been a focus for research.

A remarkable amount of the limited research literature on this topic is about the legal aspects of it. The relevance, limits and need to update the 1963 Tokyo Convention, the Montreal Protocol etc. has been published in journals of aviation law and other journals focused more broadly on aviation. These articles highlight the problems with a lack of shared and coherent descriptions of offenses to be used in domestic legal systems, the absence of a definition of good order and discipline on an aircraft and the thorny issues of jurisdiction (Vecchio, 2017).

This links to the frustrating experiences of crew and staff of too often feeling unsupported by the law and law enforcement when it comes to unruly passengers. In fact some countries may not in their legal system have appropriate laws that can be applied to situations with unruly passenger behaviour. The literature points to many shortcomings that should be addressed to protect crew, staff and operations from unruly passengers. However, it is not difficult to see that agreeing and implementing such legal structures probably is as big a challenge as any other agreement between countries in regards to legal matters. Sadly, the most researched area of the tools of unruly passengers – legal aspects – seem to be one where limited progress has been made.

More interesting than an international legal perspective is the day-to-day perspective of how unruly passengers affect crew and staff. This has not been given even less attention in research but a review of this was published last year (McLinton et. al. 2020). This research looked for research articles on the topic between 1985 and 2020 and found 19 that met the criteria of being focused on air rage and unruly passengers and were published in peer-review journals. This comes across as an abysmal number for a topic that is of such importance to the crew and staff who have to manage such situations. It is unfortunately consistent with the limited research focused on other areas of cabin crew and ground staff work in the aviation industry. The review article is however useful and summarises the 19 articles in four main areas, in a way that is readable and it is worth a read beyond the short summary presented here.

1. Frequency and characteristics of DABP (Disruptive Airline Passenger Behaviour)
The problem of underreporting is brought up here, making any reported number on DABP dubious. With this in mind, the trend of an increasing number of events was recorded from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s (except in one study). After this the number of events seem to have stabilised. Whether this represents a real stabilising trend, perhaps due to actions taken in response to the increasing number of events, or underreporting is difficult to assess. There is however some reports about an increasing seriousness to events after the mid-2000s, but overall the assessment is that the proportion of serious events have been stable in recent years.

2. Frequency of type 2 events – physical abuse
As per IATA data from 2016 12% of reported events were at Level 2, i.e. physical abuse. Like for the frequency and characteristics of DAPB, numbers vary widely between studies and especially between studies in different countries. Regardless of the details in different studies, the numbers show that it is likely that most crew and staff working with airline passengers for a longer time will have experienced events of physical and sexual abuse. Compared to other female dominated professions (nursing, teaching etc.) female cabin crew are at higher risk for sexual abuse. It should also be noted that in one study the frequency of sexual abuse from superiors and co-workers was as only slight lower than that from passengers. This indicates that DAPB may be part of a broader workplace problem. Overall, the little research there is on this shows that much more is needed.

3. Consequences of DAPB for crew well-being and training
The article writes quite a lot about this, but again from a limited amount of research. As expected, there are many negative consequences for those who experience DAPB, such as dread of similar events happening again, doubts about staying in the profession, emotional exhaustion, fatigue, aggression and social anxiety, lower self-esteem and effects on physical health. It is concluded that this area and under-researched, with almost no research on absenteeism and staff turnover due to DAPB.
When it comes to training only a handful of studies are available. The effectiveness of training is difficult to measure or assess given that DAPB events are infrequent and unpredictable in nature, i.e. relating training to actual events to measure effectiveness remains a challenge. There seems to be no doubt that more training, including more scenarios and role-playing could be helpful but more research is needed to validate the effectiveness of training.

4. Factors explaining DAPB
In general the most common factors explaining DAPB are alcohol/medications and illegal smoking, medications and drugs and poor customer service. Different studies puts alcohol as the reason for DAPB at 40-80%. IATA reports 31% related to alcohol/intoxication and 26% for non-compliance with smoking regulations. In regards to medications and drugs there is not data, only case studies. Overall such anecdotal evidence points to that there is a higher risk of abuse with medicated passengers. When it comes to customer service, better service offerings are linked to a lower risk of DAPB. While poor customer service may not directly cause DAPB it makes other passengers more supportive of unruly behaviour. Also, airport stressors (e.g. waiting, queuing, crowds, security controls) and aircraft stressors (e.g. limited space, noise, temperature) have been linked to DAPB. Finally, passenger characteristics and “travel mores” (customs and behaviours) have also been linked to DAPB, especially the increase of inexperienced passengers and a greater sense of entitlement among passengers.

Overall, the review of literature shows that there is a need for more research in the field of unruly passengers, on practically all of the aspects linked to it. Still, the limited research that is available could also be more closely reviewed by airlines and useful parts extracted for implementation and used in training.

Given the attention this topic got from readers it would be interesting to receive stories direct from those who experienced DAPB events. They could then be put together in a follow up post to compare the research with reality. If anyone wants to contribute with a story, please send it to: nicklas.dahlstrom@tfhs.lu.se

McLinton, S. S., Drury, D., Masocha, S., Savelsberg, H. & Lushington, K. (2020). “Air Rage”: A Systematic Review of Research on Disruptive Airline Passenger Behaviour 1985-2020. Journal of Airline and Airport Management, 10(1), 31-49.
Vecchio, V. (2017). Securing the Skies from Unruly Passengers: The Montreal Protocol Doesn’t Fly Far Enough. Issues in Aviation Law and Policy, 17(2), 257-276.

Simon Ericson: Flygbolagen gör sig redo och hoppas på sommaren

Besök gärna Simons webbsida www.flyg24nyheter.com för fler flygnyheter på svenska från flygbranschen över hela världen

Ännu en sommar ser ut att till största del tillbringas på hemmaplan i Sverige. Detta ser även flygbolagen som riktar in sig på inrikestrafik men det finns även en hel del utrikeslinjer som väcks till liv igen under sommaren när vaccinpass och en för stunden minskande pandemi i Europa ser ut att få igång resandet.

De senaste veckorna har kapaciteten från flygbolagen i Europa ökat betydligt mer än i övriga delar av världen enligt CAPA och även närmat sig övriga världsdelar efter en tid när kapaciteten i Europa legat långt efter resten av världen. I slutet av maj var kapaciteten, mätt i antal stolar, 59,9 procent lägre jämfört med år 2019 i Europa vilket kan jämföras med i slutet av februari i år då stolskapaciteten var ungefär 75 procent lägre jämfört med år 2019. Europa är dock fortsatt den världsdel med lägst stolskapacitet jämfört med före pandemin och den världsdel som är närmast Europa är Mellanöstern som har en kapacitet som är 54,4 procent lägre jämfört med före pandemin. I topp ligger Nordamerika där kapaciteten endast är 30,0 procent lägre än före pandemin enligt data från CAPA. Trots Europas dåliga utgångsläge syns ljuspunkter inför sommaren och om kapaciteten når upp till 50,0 procent av 2019 års nivåer är det en bra utveckling menar CAPA i en analys om den europeiska flygmarknaden. Ytterligare lättnader i reserestriktioner och inresekrav kan komma att förbättra utvecklingen och även om kapaciteten når upp till 50 procent av år 2019 återstår det att se hur många passagerare som kommer att resa.

Sverige och utrikestrafiken
I Sverige syns tecken på en ljusning. Flygbolagen startar nya linjer och återupptar gamla samtidigt som det är låga biljettpriser och hög konkurrens på många linjer vilket bör öka återhämtningen av passagerare men på bekostnad av lönsamheten. I sommar kommer Sverige att få flera utrikeslinjer tillbaka när främst SAS och Norwegian expanderar från Stockholm Arlanda och Göteborg Landvetter. SAS återupptar bland annat flygningar till Milano, Aten, Split, Alanya, Beirut och Sankt Petersburg i juni och även flyglinjen Göteborg-Palma är tillbaka i bolagets flygprogram. Enligt SAS hemsida kommer man även att återuppta en rad andra utrikeslinjer under sommaren.

För Norwegians del handlar det nu om en återkomst till Sverige som började med inrikesflygningar i slutet av maj som kompletteras med linjer till Oslo och Malaga. Under juni och juli expanderar man ytterligare med flygningar till bland annat Köpenhamn, Nice, Palma, Alicante, Barcelona, Faro, Aten, Dubrovnik, Split och Rom, Rhodos, Prag, Larnaca, Krakow, Budapest och Belgrad från Stockholm Arlanda. Även från Göteborg blir det flyg med Norwegian till Malaga och Alicante. Det är alltså ett tydligt sommarsemesterfokus för både SAS och Norwegian i sina expansioner nu vilket är helt logiskt med tanke på årstid och att många längtar efter att besöka Medelhavets varmare klimat.

Noterbart är även att Linköping får tillbaka sin linje till Amsterdam med KLM som dock kommer att göra ett uppehåll i juli och början av augusti på grund av banarbete på Linköping City Airport. Dessutom tillkommer fler flyglinjer från fler flygbolag än SAS och Norwegian under sommaren. Ett exempel är Vuelings flyglinje till Barcelona från Göteborg.

Inrikes – Gotland i fokus
Inrikestrafiken går vanligtvis ner under sommaren när affärsresandet minskar, men precis som förra året lär det mönstret inte att synas i år. Detta eftersom affärsresandet är lågt och istället kan en ökning av resenärer ses under sommaren när fritidsresandet ökar under semestrarna. En sommardestination i Sverige är Gotland och det märks hos flygbolagen. Redan under sommaren år 2020 var Visby-Stockholm en linje med hård konkurrens och så blir det även i år. SAS, Norwegian, Air Gotland och BRA kommer att flyga på linjen där de två första flyger till Arlanda och de två sistnämnda till Bromma i Stockholm. SAS satsar på en daglig avgång mellan Gotland och Stockholm med en mix av Airbus A320neo (180 stolar), ATR 72 (70 stolar) och CRJ-900 (90 stolar) medan Norwegian ska flyga fyra gånger i veckan med sina Boeing 737-800 som har plats för 186-189 passagerare vilket troligen är i största laget för linjen, särskilt i hård konkurrens.

BRA och Air Gotland som flyger till Bromma satsar däremot mer på ett större antal avgångar med mindre flygplanstyper. BRA flyger med ATR 72 (72 stolar) och Air Gotland med Saab 340/ATR 72 (34/72 stolar). Både Air Gotland och BRA kommer att flyga upp till fem avgångar per dag mellan Visby och Stockholm och även komplettera detta med andra linjer till Gotland som inte går via Stockholm, något som är en bristvara. De ”andra” linjerna är för Air Gotlands del direktflyg mellan Göteborg och Visby samt Ängelholm Helsingborg och Visby. BRA kommer också att flyga Göteborg-Visby men även Malmö-Visby. Det kommer alltså även bli konkurrens på direktflygningar mellan Göteborg och Visby i sommar.

Det är inte bara på flygningar till Gotland som konkurrensen ser ut att blir hård. Flyglinjen Ängelholm Helsingborg-Stockholm som före pandemin hade två flygbolag, kommer att flygas av tre flygbolag i sommar, Air Skåne, BRA och SAS. Även Halmstad-Stockholm och Skellefteå-Stockholm får konkurrens i sommar vilket inte var fallet sommaren före pandemin. Samtidigt som de större flyglinjerna i vissa fall fått mer konkurrens än tidigare är det flera flyglinjer som kommer att gapa tomma i sommar. Till exempel kommer Ronneby inte att ha någon flygtrafik till Bromma och Kristianstad som med närhet till Åhus och Österlen är en sommardestination kommer också att stå utan flygningar till Stockholm.

Två, för sommaren, nya flyglinjer som troligen tillkommer på grund av pandemin och hemestrandet är Stockholm Bromma-Sälen och Ängelholm Helsingborg-Sälen. Det är BRA som kommer att flyga de båda, traditionellt sett, vinterlinjerna under sommaren och det ska bli intressant att se hur dessa utvecklas. Även utvecklingen för linjen Skellefteå-Göteborg som tillkommer under sommaren ska bli intressant att se.

Sommaren år 2021 ser ut att kunna bjuda på betydligt mer flygplan att se på uppe i himmeln än år 2020. Något som är perfekt när sommaren ska avnjutas, förhoppningsvis ibland i ett flygplan och annars i en solstol utrustad med Flightradar-appen, något att dricka och solkräm. Mycket mer än så behövs inte.

Simon Ericson

Unruly Passengers – An Unsustainable Situation

Most of us who get onto a flight simply want to get to our destination in a way that is as pleasant as possible (or at least not too unpleasant). However, at times there are passengers who cause unpleasant situations, conflicts or even operational disruptions and diversions. The label “unruly passenger” is used for these passengers and the situations they cause. The problem with unruly passengers is one that has gained increasing attention for some time in the aviation industry, but still has remained a growing problem. The latest development on this is that American Airlines and Southwest have recently decided to ban alcohol on their flights (link to article below). This after a series of incidents, with the most serious one was one where a woman hit a cabin crew so that two of her teeth were knocked out (link).

ICAO Annex 17 defines what an unruly passenger is (link) and in summary it is a passenger that does not follow rules or instructions and “disturbs good order and discipline”. In 2019 ICAO released Doc 10117 – Manual on the Legal Aspects of Unruly and Disruptive Passengers, with guidance on how to handle this type of difficult situations. The industry organisation IATA has also focused on this issue and reports that there is about one unruly passenger incident per 1000 flights (link). IATA has also produced a useful summary on the issue (link).

IATA has also developed a list of “unruly behaviours”, which includes physical and verbal confrontations, making threats, non-compliance with instructions and other behaviour that easily falls in the category of “I know it when I see it” when it comes to being unruly (link). When it comes to causes, alcohol has already been mentioned, and to that can be added other forms of drug use or abuse. To this can be added mental health issues, anxiety, fatigue and all kinds of frustrations that a passenger can experience when flying (limited personal space, queues, delays etc.).

The situation in Europe has gained attention from the European Abiation Safety Agency (EASA), which launched a campaign named “#notonmyflight” to promote zero tolerance against unruly passengers (link). In a document developed for the UK Government, “International comparison of disruptive passenger prevalence” some perspective on the issue is provided. This shows a marked increase in the number of cases from 2007 to 2016, with the majority of events (98%) was verbally abusive behaviour. Comparable data from different countries is scarce, but worth noting is how rare it seems to be that unruly behaviour has any consequences – only in one of six cases in the US resulted in fines between 2009 and 2013. This aligns with cabin crew perception of not feeling supported to the full extent that they confidently can manage escalating situations with unruly passengers. Even the different options for consequences vary between countries. Among the four options of fines, nofly lists, detention, imprisonment, few are coherently implemented and applied between or even within countries.

What is not emphasised enough in the formal definitions, guidance and numbers is the incredibly diffciult situation for cabin crew. They are expected to provide the best possible service, without implying that passengers can get more than they paid for (which would create more expectations and more trouble). They are supposed to avoid and manage conflicts with people from all walks of life, some of which may carry with them frustrations that has nothing to do with the flight but where the conditions of being passenger may trigger reactions unlikley to happen elsewhere. While many service professions may share these challenges, there are few where the combination of expected service and limited options in terms of action conspire to make for such a difficult situation. It is one thing to ask someone to leave a store or club, or even to throw someone out, but on an aircraft this is a very different option.

There is much more to explore, understand and write about this topic, especially the psychology and sociology of unruly behaviour on flights. However, for now it can be concluded that the issue of unruly passengers is one that has been growing and can be expected to continue to do so in a growing industry, especially as the gap between expected and experienced service probably will remain and grow due to the competition in the industry. It is also a topic that is of importance for everyone that gets in contact with the aviation industry since we all are passengers at some point and unruly behaviour will affect us all sooner or later.

Link to articles:
American And Southwest Airlines Ban Alcohol From Flights Due To Passengers’ Unruly Behaviours

Who would start a new airline these days? More than you might imagine!

2020 was a historially bad year for the aviation industry and many airlines had to close down their operation. Because of this it is hard to imagine that there would be anyone ready to take the risk to start a new airline. However, there are susrpisingly many new airlines being started or being plannned to start up soon. Here are a few examples for new airlines to look out for:

In the U.S. the new Avelo Airlines started operations in late April. Their strategy is a traditional low-cost one, i.e. to connect major destinations via secondary airports and thus be able to offer competitive ticket prices. The start up fleet will consist of three 737-800 aircraft. While offering a low-cost proposition for passengers, it also aims to be a bit more customer friendly than some of its competitors, with a free sealed package of a bottle of water, a cookie and some hand sanitizers as an example of this.

Another upstart in the U.S. that has received a lot of attention is Breeze Airways. The commencement of operations is planned for June. Like Avelo and other LCCs the plan is to focus on point-to-point traffic between secondary airports. However, Breeze seems to go all in on this strategy and as per recent reporting they will have no competition on 80% of their summer routes (link). This business model is a response to the fact that the U.S. domestic airline capacity remained stagnant from 2007 to 2017 while the economy expanded by 34%, meaning that there may be a lot of underserved niche demand in the market.

This Norwegian new airline aims to start operations in June this year. The airline will fly B 7373-800s A routework incuding major cities in Norway as well as some Mediterranean destinations have been revealed. And as if one new airline from a small country was not enough another one is on its way – Norse Atlantic Airways. This one has the same man behind it as the previously fast-expanding LCC Norwegian, now a shadow of its former self.

Shifting to national airlines, the country of Montenegro re-started its own national airline. After Montenegro Airlines went out of business in December last year, a replacement in the form of Air Montenegro is planned to start operations after some troubled times getting up and running. The route network was recently presented (link) and a first aircraft, an Embraer E195, being painted in the livery for the new airline.

In South America an expected newcomer to the market is Ecuatoriana Airlines. The airline will be focused on the domestic market in Ecuador; I aims to operate Boeing B717s, i.e. MD80s, which is a type that has been phased out in many markets, and Bombardier Dash 8 Q 400s. The planned launch in October this year still seems far away and a bit tentative, but livery as in the picture above was recently presented (link).

There are many other examples of airlines that has started recently, or plan to do so soon. The Lund University School of Aviation blog will continue to follow new entrants of the market. Give us a tip on interesting ones, or even better – write a post for the blog and we will publish it!