US: Number of unruly air travelers lower, still too high

Federal officials say unruly passengers are becoming a bit less common on airline flights, but they are still causing disruptions at twice the rate of late last year

WASHINGTON -- The rate of unruly passengers on airline flights is down sharply from early this year but is mostly unchanged over the past three months and remains more than twice the level seen in late 2020, according to government figures.

“Our work is having an impact and the trend is moving in the right direction," said FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson, “but we need the progress to continue. This remains a serious safety threat.”

At a congressional hearing Thursday, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., called for more criminal prosecutions of unruly passengers. He also said airports should stop concessioners from selling alcohol to go.

“Get a great big to-go cup with four shots in it and take it on the airplane — that needs to end," he said.

Criminal prosecutions are rare, and usually left up to local authorities. The Justice Department said it filed charges in federal court for 16 defendants in a recent 10-month period, according to travel publication Skift.

Airlines reported about six incidents of disruptive passengers for every 10,000 flights last week, the FAA said. That is about the same as late June but down about half from February and March. It is more than twice as high as the rate of 2.45 incidents per 10,000 flights during the last three months of 2020.

FAA figures show that the spike began in late January, including several flights that were disrupted by people flying to a rally in Washington for then-President Donald Trump.

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