The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is asking airports to more carefully monitor alcohol sales, especially in to-go cups.
In a letter released Tuesday to leaders of about 1,000 airports across the US, the FAA administrator, Steve Dickinson, expressed concerns about serving alcohol to passengers throughout airport restaurants and bars before flights.
“As the number of passengers traveling has increased, so has the number of unruly and unsafe behavior incidents on planes and in airports,” Dickinson wrote. “Every week, we see situations in which law enforcement was asked to meet an aircraft at the gate following an unruly passenger incident. In some cases, flight attendants have reported being physically assaulted,” he added.
“Our investigations show that alcohol often contributes to this unsafe behaviour.”
Tuesday’s announcement also comes as part of the “zero-tolerance policy” that the FAA announced in January, in which passengers can face immediate enforcement action instead of warnings.
A union survey in July revealed that nearly one in five flight attendants say they have gotten into a “physical incident” this year with a passenger. Among the 5,000 flight attendants surveyed, some said they were cursed or yelled out, followed through the airport and harassed after the flight ended.
The most common trigger is passengers who refuse to follow federal mask-wearing mandates on the plane, along with alcohol sales and flight delays.
Over the weekend, an Ohio man was arrested in Florida after being accused of groping two female flight attendants and punching a male flight attendant during a flight from Philadelphia to Miami. According to police, Maxwell Berry, 22, had two drinks while on the Frontier Airlines flight and ordered another drink.
In July, the FAA proposed more than $682,000 in fines against unruly passengers in more than 540 cases since January. The agency also recently disclosed that airlines have reported over 3,600 cases of unruly passengers this year – figures were not kept for prior years.