Understanding Your Rights as a Passenger in Air Rage Cases

Air Rage Lawsuits

Passengers Behaving Badly

Do you have any rights if you are traveling by air on a domestic airline and another passenger starts acting up?  What are your rights in the event you are a victim of air rage? Who is responsible for your safety? Air rage is a concern for everyone and it has been receiving a lot of attention.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), an airline industry body, reported that your odds of finding yourself in an airborne nightmare are increasing, with “unruly passenger incidents” on board aircraft increasing 14% in 2015 compared to the previous year.  They stated that passengers have a one in 1,205 shot of meeting a drunk, aggressive, or disruptive passenger on their flight.

Recently, CNN reported on three Spirit Airlines passengers, who after taking a flight from Baltimore to Los Angeles filed personal injury lawsuits against the airline claiming that the carrier provided excessive alcohol to other passengers, thereby failing to protect them from injury.

In personal injury cases, there are three primary factors that come into play:

  1. Liability – whether the defendant (Spirit Airlines) was at fault
  2. The amount of damages
  3. The defendant’s ability to pay

The main point of this case is whether the unruly passengers were allegedly over-served by the airline employee.  If so, who’s responsible for any air rage behavior?

Legal Obligation to Care for Cargo

US federal regulations provide general support for airlines to create and enforce rules of conduct on their planes through the stipulation that they are legally obligated to care for their cargo; in this case human passengers. In an article by Mashable, the regulations state “drinks can’t be served to anyone who ‘appears’ to be intoxicated or who “has a deadly or dangerous weapon accessible to him while aboard the aircraft”.

When I researched the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) policies regarding alcohol consumption for passengers, the only specific guidelines I found applied to alcohol consumption by pilots; and to the amount/kind of alcohol that can be packed in luggage and/or carried onto a plane.

It’s up to the airlines to create and enforce rules to safeguard their passengers.  Currently, the flight attendant has the power to determine when a passenger has had enough to drink and the responsibility to take appropriate action.  Unfortunately, by the time they determine the passenger has reached that point, it is often too late to control their behavior. Compounding the issue is having no way to know how much the passenger may have had to drink prior to boarding the plane. I suggest that airlines create and enforce alcohol drink policies that clearly define behaviors and limits for their passengers. These policies should address how to determine signs of drunken or belligerent behaviors and when to stop serving alcohol to anyone who is showing signs of these behaviors. This could go a long way to helping prevent air rage incidents.

Europe is Making a Move

Traveller recently reported on Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) that has imposed a three drink limit for all passengers on flights within Europe.  And, the International Air Transport Association (ISTA) sanctioned a study on the subject called “The Devil in Our Midst”, the devil being the unruly passenger. As a result of the study, ISTA called for an action to reduce the number of unruly passengers who disrupt flights through excessive alcohol consumption. However, they have not made any specific proposals about alcohol restrictions on flights. They are leaving this up to the airlines to define and enforce.

Timothy Dimoff Knows About Life Rage

If you are interested in learning more about air rage in our society, email Tim at [email protected] to order Life Rage today! You can read about ways to cope with emotional and psychological abuse caused by air rage on commercial flights.

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