App version: 0.1.0

What to Do When There’s an Unruly Passenger on Your Flight

What to Do When There's an Unruly Passenger on Your Flight
Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman
Sulaiman Abdur-RahmanUpdated February 24, 2023
Share this article:
Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
Unruly passengers on domestic and international flights have been in the news lately. It can be scary and upsetting to board an airplane that’s carrying an aggressive passenger. If you find yourself in this situation, trusting in the professionalism of the flight attendants may be your best course of action.Below we provide tips on what to do when there’s an unruly passenger on your flight.

Unruly Passenger Example

What’s an unruly passenger? An unruly passenger is a traveler who engages in disruptive behavior on a flight, train, or bus. Here are some examples of an unruly passenger:
  • A passenger who shouts and uses vulgar, threatening, or profane language
  • A passenger who refuses to comply with travel safety rules or procedures
  • A passenger who gets physically aggressive toward other passengers or staff
If a passenger disrupts your flight, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may issue fines and civil penalties up to $37,000 per violation.

Dealing With an Unruly Passenger

Here are some tips for dealing with an unruly passenger on your flight:
  • Trust in the professionalism of the flight attendants to handle the situation
  • Request a different seat if you feel uncomfortable
  • Be empathetic and not confrontational toward the passenger

How to Handle Drunk Passenger on Flight

Some unruly passenger cases may stem from a traveler who exhibits odd or aggressive behavior after consuming alcoholic beverages.You may do the following if there’s an unruly passenger on your flight who is under the influence of alcohol:
  • Report the passenger to a flight attendant
  • Request a new seat
  • Ask whether the passenger can be removed from the plane
  • Ask whether you can board a different flight to your final destination at no additional cost

How Flight Attendants Deal With Unruly Passengers

One of the tips for what to do when there’s an unruly passenger on your flight is to let the flight attendants handle the situation.Here’s how a flight attendant may deal with an unruly passenger:
  • Ask the passenger to comply with the rules
  • Refuse to serve alcohol to the passenger
  • Relocate the passenger to another seat
  • Remove the passenger from the airplane during boarding time
  • Restrain the passenger — if necessary — to protect other passengers and staff for the remainder of the flight

Penalties for Disruptive Passenger on Plane

As mentioned earlier, the FAA may issue fines and civil penalties up to $37,000 per violation for unruly passenger cases. Disruptive passengers can also get arrested and face criminal prosecution in certain cases.The FAA collected more than $4.9 million in fines, penalties, and forfeitures in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2022. The agency previously collected more than $30.7 million in fines, penalties, and forfeitures in the 2021 fiscal year, according to the annual FAA Performance and Accountability Report.

Can Airlines Ban Unruly Passengers?

Yes, airlines can ban unruly passengers. Commercial airlines have the discretion to deny service to any passenger who previously exhibited disruptive behavior on their flights. These passengers can no longer fly with the airline that issued the ban.Company-specific airline bans don’t prevent unruly passengers from booking and boarding future flights with other carriers.Democratic U.S. Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island introduced legislation in April 2022 that would have required the federal government to maintain a list of abusive passengers. Anyone named on the list would have been banned from commercial flights. The measure died in Congress and did not become law.

Things To Consider When Buying Plane Tickets

Most scheduled and unscheduled flights in the United States have no reported cases of unruly passengers. The FAA received at least 2,359 unruly passenger reports in 2022 compared with the hundreds of millions of passengers who boarded flights at U.S. airports that year. Here are other points you may consider when buying plane tickets:Airline miles. Some credit cards allow you to earn credit card points that can be redeemed for airline miles.Annual fees. Some card issuers may charge credit card annual fees on cards that provide access to airport lounges and priority boarding on flights.Bonus miles. Some credit cards let you earn bonus credit card miles when using your card to buy flight tickets.Choose your card. You may compare options and choose a credit card that’s right for you.Credit card advantages. There are several advantages of using a credit card when buying airplane tickets, including possible reward points toward flights and hotel night stays.Credit limit. You may request a credit limit increase if you need to make a large purchase on airfare expenses.Earn and redeem. Earning and redeeming credit card rewards can be fairly simple.Grace period. Most credit cards offer a grace period in which no interest will be charged provided you pay your statement balance in full by the due date. Terms and conditions. Some credit cards may include credit card terms that are not right for you.Travel rewards. Some of the best travel rewards credit cards let you redeem points for travel statement credits.

The Takeaway

Paying airfare and sitting next to an unruly passenger can be an uncomfortable experience. You may report disruptive passengers to the flight crew and request new accommodations for your comfort. Buying flight tickets with a credit card can help you build credit, among other potential benefits.Lantern by SoFi can help you find and compare credit cards for building credit. Lantern presents you with multiple options to consider, and you may apply for a credit card with the creditor of your choice.Compare credit-building cards with Lantern.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s an unruly passenger?
How do airlines handle unruly passengers?
Should you confront an unruly passenger?
Photo credit: iStock/AwaylGl

About the Author

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman writes about personal loans, auto loans, student loans, and other personal finance topics for Lantern. He’s the recipient of more than 10 journalism awards and served as a New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists board member. An alumnus of the Philadelphia-based Temple University, Abdur-Rahman is a strong advocate of the First Amendment and freedom of speech.
Share this article: