Unruly Passenger Rate Drops, But Remains Too High

Thursday, September 23, 2021

WASHINGTON — The rate of unruly passenger incidents on commercial flights has dropped sharply since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launched its Zero Tolerance campaign but the rate remains too high, according to new data released today. 

“Our work is having an impact and the trend is moving in the right direction. But we need the progress to continue. This remains a serious safety threat, and one incident is one too many,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “The FAA will continue its Zero Tolerance policy, keep its public awareness campaign going, and keep pushing and partnering with everyone in the aviation system to do more. We appreciate the tremendous work of all our partners in the airline, airport, labor, and law enforcement communities.”

As of last week, unruly passenger incidents were occurring approximately six times per every 10,000 flights. That’s an approximately 50 percent drop from early 2021, but it’s more than twice as high as the end of 2020. Since the FAA launched its public awareness campaign with memes and two public service announcements, the rate has fallen approximately 30 percent.

View a graphic with the data.

Using its full legal authority to deter this dangerous behavior, the FAA adopted a zero-tolerance policy toward unruly passengers in January 2021. Under this policy, the FAA no longer issues warning letters. Instead, it moves directly to fines, which have totaled $1.1 million to date. In addition to its public service announcement videos and memes, the agency has asked airports to help educate passengers that they cannot consume alcohol on board that they purchase at restaurants and shops in the airport or that is not served by a flight attendant.


Detailed current data on these incidents is available on our unruly passenger website. Press releases about individual cases, and the work the FAA has done to get the word out about the consequences passengers face, is available in our unruly passenger toolkit.