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Unruly Passengers

The issue 

Between 2007 and 2016, over 58,000 unruly passenger incidents were reported on aircraft in-flight. These incidents include violence against crew and other passengers, harassment and failure to follow safety instructions. 
Unruly behaviour threatens passenger safety,disrupt other passengers and crew causing delays and diversions. But due to loopholes in existing laws, such offenses often remain unpunished.

How IATA is addressing the issue of unruly passengers 

IATA is working on a multi-stakeholder approach focusing on enhancing the legal deterrent and also supporting airlines to help prevent incidents from happening in the first place and improving the management of them when they do occur. 

  • IATA aims to strengthen the international legal framework to ensure that governments have the necessary legal tools to be able to take action against the small minority of passengers that are unruly. 
  • To futher assist member airlines IATA has developed guidance and training to help de-escalate incidents, and to ensure the responsible service of alcohol. The training also covers the use of restraint techniques when absolutely necessary. 
  • IATA is working with airports, retailers and other groups to ensure the responsible sales and marketing of alcohol to avoid unruly passenger incidents as a result of intoxication. 

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


Tokyo Convention and Montreal Protocol 

Enacted in 1963, 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 offences committed onboard 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 reinforce the right of airlines to seek the recovery of significant costs arising from unruly behavior under national laws.

The 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.


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