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Unruly Passengers


The issue

Between 2007 and 2015, over 49,084 unruly passenger incidents were reported on aircrafts in-flight. These incidents include violence against crew and other passengers, harassment and failure to follow safety instructions.

Not only does unruly behaviour threaten passenger safety, it also disrupts operational procedures and burdens airlines with additional costs. But due to loopholes in existing laws, such offenses often remain unpunished.

How IATA addresses unruly passengers

IATA is working on a multi-stakeholder approach to tackle the issue: 

  • IATA aims to strengthen the international legal framework surrounding unruly passengers by implementing a dual strategy focused on prevention and management of incidents
  • IATA has developed guidance and training to forestall potential situations to further assist member airlines
  • IATA plays an active role in shaping international legal frameworks to better equip governments with the legal tools needed to deal with unruly passengers   

See our Unruly Passenger Infographic (pdf) for more information.

Tokyo Convention and Montreal Protocol

Enacted in 1969, the Tokyo Convention governs offences and other acts that occur on aircrafts in-flight. However, a Diplomatic Conference was held in 2014 to consider proposed revisions to ensure that it is an effective deterrent to unruly behavior.

The result was the Montreal Protocol 2014 which makes important changes to the original Tokyo Convention. The Protocol extends the jurisdiction over offence to the destination country of the flight in addition to the country of aircraft registration. This closes a loophole which allowed many serious offences to escape legal action.

The agreed changes give greater clarity to the definition of unruly behavior (such as including the threat of or actual physical assault, or refusal to follow safety-related instructions). There are also new provisions to deal with the recovery of significant costs arising from unruly behavior.

This Protocol is good news for everyone who flies – passengers and crew alike. The changes, along with the measures already being taken by airlines, will provide an effective deterrent for unacceptable behavior on board aircraft.

At the recently concluded  39th ICAO Assembly, IATA presented a working paper on unruly passengers (pdf) and ratification of the Montreal Protocol 2014.

Next steps

A total of 22 States will need to ratify the Protocol before it will enter in to force. IATA has played an important role in the development of the text of the new Protocol since 2009 and we are now advocating for governments to urgently ratify it.

Industry core principles on Unruly Passengers

At the 70th IATA AGM in June 2014, the industry unanimously adopted a set of core principles for dealing with the issue of unruly passenger behavior.

The principles call on governments to ratify the Montreal Protocol 2014 so they have the legal powers at their disposal to ensure unruly passengers face the appropriate consequences of their actions. Airlines, airports and others must work together to implement the right procedures and train staff to respond effectively to such instances.

Read the AGM resolution on unruly passengers (pdf).

Supporting documentation

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