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Zero tolerance for abusive passengers

The infamous incident that took place on a Ryanair flight from Barcelona to London Stansted in October, in which an elderly lady was racially abused by a fellow passenger, shows there is still some way to go in dealing with disruptive passengers
 

The infamous incident that took place on a Ryanair flight from Barcelona to London Stansted in October, in which an elderly lady was racially abused by a fellow passenger, shows there is still some way to go in dealing with disruptive passengers. The footage that was captured by another passenger and spread on social media, revealed a few flaws in the way the situation was dealt with, in my opinion.


When a passenger threatens any form of violence, abusive or threatening behaviour, then it can affect the safety of a flight. As the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) states, besides safety implications, disruptive behaviour can have serious consequences, including civil prosecution. Airlines have a right to refuse to carry passengers that they consider to be a potential risk to the safety of the aircraft, its crew, or its passengers.


CAA data shows 2016 saw the highest number of disruptive passenger reports for the past five years. There were 418 flights in 2016 that had one or more disruptive passengers. This is more than double the number of reports seen last year, which in part is due to more rigorous reporting and a zero-tolerance approach to disruptive behaviour. In the Ryanair case, the airline, rightly so, reported the case to the authorities as soon as it was made aware of the incident (after seeing the footage). What is puzzling, however, is why a case of disruptive behaviour of such a nature was not reported to the Captain by the cabin crew – who themselves seemed ill trained to handle the situation.

 

Captains have a duty of care and safety for all passengers, and where there is a clear case of abuse and threat of violence, as was the case on the Ryanair flight, such information should be passed on to the Captain to gauge whether any of the passengers should be removed from the flight.


It is important to be aware of passengers that trigger disruptive behaviour, especially on the ground, because that could have a safety impact in flight. The abusive gentleman on the Ryanair flight demonstrated that he was volatile and unpredictable, and it would be unclear how far his actions would escalate, had the elderly lady refused to move (which she had every right not to do so). It is unthinkable to see how a crew member can allow such a destructive passenger to remain on a flight, and rather alarming is that his welfare and comfort seemed as important, even after the lady was eventually moved. Shocking.


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