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Unruly Passengers


The issue

In the period 2007-2015 there were over 49,084 reported cases of unruly passenger incidents on board aircraft in flight. These incidents include violence against crew and other passengers, harassment and failure to follow safety instructions instructions

Unruly passengers are a very small minority. But unacceptable behavior on board an aircraft can have serious consequences for the safety of all on board. They inconvenience other passengers and lead to significant operational disruption and cost for airlines. But due to loopholes in existing laws, there are many cases where those who commit serious offenses are not punished.

How IATA addresses unruly passengers

IATA is working on a multi-stakeholder approach to combat the issue. This sets out a dual strategy focused on prevention and management of incidents whilst also enhancing the international legal framework to ensure it is a sufficient deterrent. 

To assist member airlines, IATA has developed guidance and training that aim to prevent unruly incidents from happening onboard as well as how to manage situations effectively when they do arise.

In addition, IATA has been advocating for a review of the international legal framework, to ensure that governments have the legal powers they need to deal with unruly passengers. This will act as a deterrent to future instances of unruly behavior - click on image for full infographic (pdf).

Tokyo Protocol and Montreal Convention

The Tokyo Convention governs offences and other acts that occur on board aircraft inflight. It came in to force in 1969. This 50 year old Convention has served the industry well. However, a Diplomatic Conference was held in 2014to consider proposed revisions to the Convention 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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