Flight attendants concerned about uptick in unruly passengers
SAN FRANCISCO - Flight attendants are concerned about an uptick in unruly passengers onboard flights.
The most recent incident involved a Frontier Airlines passenger who allegedly groped two female flight attendants on a flight from Philadelphia to Miami on Saturday.
Witnesses said the man had been drinking alcohol before the incident. The flight crew restrained him in a seat with duct tape until they landed in Miami. The passenger Maxwell Berry, 22, of Ohio was charged with multiple counts of battery.
"I think every airline is dealing with this. Flight attendants across the industry are sometimes fearful to come to work, it's something we need to get a handle on," said Paul Hartshorn, a spokesman with the Association of Professional Flight Attendants that represents American Airlines crews.
"Flight attendants, every day are dealing with verbal attacks, but they're also dealing with physical attacks," said Hartshorn.
The FAA has received more than 3,715 reports of unruly passengers this past year between Jan. 1 and Aug.1 Of those, 2,729 were mask-related incidents. Overall, the FAA reports opening 628 investigations, the highest number on record.
Hartshorn says there are many more incidents that are reported just to the airlines.
"At our airline alone, we've seen just over 13,000 safety reports submitted by our flight attendants since the beginning of the year. And the staggering number of that is that 65% of those in some way relate to a passenger misconduct issues," said Hartshorn.
Passengers say they are noticing more tension and fights on flights.
"Some people have a little shorter temper," said Bakr Shehadeh, a Belmont resident who flew to SFO from Puerto Rico through Houston, "I guess the mask gives a little bit of irritation, some people, a couple of times they had to tell them to put the mask back on."
"I fly all the time because I have a business in Hawaii, and family in other states, and the last few months of travel has been really different from, years ago," said Dave Bobrick of San Francisco, "People are definitely a lot more aggressive, I think, toward the flight attendants. I feel like it's really chaotic."
Flight crews say alcohol is adding fuel to the problem as some airport restaurants and bars are offering take-out options for drinks.
"A lot of these passenger misconduct reports include alcohol, issues that are exacerbated by alcohol and we're seeing alcohol in the airports, to go," said Hartshorn who said many airlines have stopped serving alcohol due to passenger intoxication problems.
At SFO announcements and signs alert passengers to the consequences of fines or removal from the property if they do not comply with flight crews.
"We're happy to have people back, we would just love to see a return to kindness overall,' said Hartshorn.
"Just be thoughtful and mindful of the people around you and you're not the only person there," said Sarah Gordon, a San Francisco resident.
The FAA increased the maximum penalty from $25,000 to $37,000 per violation for unruly passenger cases.
Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU. Email Jana at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.