Airlines report 17 per cent rise in unruly passengers

Some 10,854 unruly passenger incidents were reported to IATA by airlines in 2015, up from 9,316 incidents in 2014.

MONTREAL (REUTERS) - Reports of air rage rose worldwide in 2015, with instances of verbally abusive airline passengers and travellers who refused to listen to cabin crew increasing by almost 17 per cent, the international trade association for airlines said on Wednesday.

Alcohol or drug intoxication was identified as a factor in 23 per cent of the cases, though in the vast majority of instances consumption occurred prior to boarding or from a personal supply without the crew's knowledge, the International Air Transport Association said in a statement.

"Unruly and disruptive behaviour is simply not acceptable. The anti-social behaviour of a tiny minority of customers can have unpleasant consequences for the safety and comfort of all on board," Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's director-general and chief executive, said in the statement.

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Some 10,854 unruly passenger incidents were reported to IATA by airlines last year, up from 9,316 incidents in 2014, IATA said.

There was one incident for every 1,205 flights last year, compared with one in every 1,282 flights in 2014.

In some cases, planes have made emergency landings because escalating conflicts put passengers at risk.

A man on a Southwest Airlines flight started a fight with a woman sitting in front of him in October 2015 after she reclined her seat, for instance.

Consumer advocates have said the move by airlines to increase profits by packing more customers aboard may be agitating travellers and creating safety concerns if evacuating the aircraft is necessary.

Airline officials have denied these charges.

Unruly behaviour by passengers has also taken the form of sexual assault, at times. Last month, a male passenger of Virgin America was criminally charged with sexually touching a sleeping female passenger on an overnight flight to Newark, New Jersey, from Los Angeles.

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