The FAA has called on airport police to arrest more passengers who are unruly or violent on flights. They have also asked airport bars and restaurants to stop serving alcoholic beverages to go.
FAA regulations prohibit passengers from having alcohol on airplanes that is not served by the airline. However, since some airport bars and restaurants are offering alcohol to go passengers think they can carry it onboard. Sometimes passengers board flights already inebriated.
The agency’s investigations into the surge in aggressive on-board behavior has shown that alcohol is often a contributing factor.
Several major U.S. airlines, including Southwest Airlines and American Airlines, continue to prohibit serving alcohol on board flights till the end of the mask wear mandate. The mandate is set to end in September, 2021. The airlines came to this decision since a Southwest flight attendant was assaulted violently by an alcohol intoxicated passenger in June, 2021.
In a more recent incident an intoxicated passenger on a Frontier Airlines flight sexually assaulted two flight attendants and physically assaulted a third. The passenger is now facing three counts of battery.
Controversially, many passengers who behave in an unruly manner do not face criminal charges. While the FAA levies civil charges it does not have the power to prosecute criminal charges.
The FAA has a zero tolerance policy for in-flight disruptions which could lead to fines as high as $52,500 and up to 20 years in prison.
The FAA has received more than 3,700 reports of unruly passengers since January. The agency has looked into more than 628 potential violations of federal law so far this year. This is the highest number since the agency began keeping records in 1995.
The largest flight attendant union in the U.S. renewed its call for the FAA and the Department of Justice to “protect passengers and crew from disruptive and verbally and physically abusive travelers.”
Meanwhile, airport sales of alcohol have increased sharply with the lifting of coronavirus restrictions. For instance, Duty-free giant Dufry AG reports that sales of alcohol and tobacco have risen between 50% to 100% in recent days.
Even before the pandemic broke out alcohol-related problems had long been of significant concern for airlines.