Airline Protocol for Unruly Passengers

Posted on November, 16 2018 by Blueway Limited

After a recent incident of racism on a RyanAir flight, many have wondered about the rules that apply to unruly passengers. Unruly behaviour is also one of the major causes of flight delays. So, how are airlines supposed to deal with it?


Experts Speak Out

To begin with, violating the crew’s air navigation order is a crime, which means there is a precedent in law for punishing unruly behaviour inside an aircraft. According to professional crew members, the racist passenger in the RyanAir flight can officially be categorized as a “disruptive passenger”.

In accordance with the rules, the passenger should have been barred from flying that day. He abused the other passengers using racial slurs and behaved badly towards crew members as well. Despite being asked to calm down, he refused to do so. His refusal is said to be in direct violation of the air navigation order and therefore, amounts to a crime.


What Else?

There are multiple reasons why an airline might choose to unboard a passenger. This can include interfering with aircraft equipment, being intoxicated, being abusive (verbally or physically) or even being ill. However, in the case of being ill, the passenger is disembarked for his/her own safety rather than the safety of others.

There are “minor” cases of bad behaviour that do not necessarily call for a diversion or disembarkation. For instance, engaging in a sexual act inside the lavatory isn’t considered dangerous and passengers will simply be asked to get back to their seats.



The airline crew is also instructed to de-escalate such situations. In the case of the RyanAir passenger, the crew seemed to have failed to do that. Ideally, the passenger should not have been allowed to stay on the flight as his presence could have led to an escalation.

However, a former RyanAir employee, who currently works with EasyJet, stated that there was no established protocol for unruly passengers on RyanAir, unlike EasyJet. The employee added that the passenger would have been unboarded and reported to the authorities, if the same were to have occurred inside an EasyJet flight.

But, with RyanAir, crew members are supposedly instructed to prioritize flight schedules.  On the other hand, EasyJet would have taken the passenger to court, banned him, fined him or at least, warned him.


Abused Passenger Waits for Apology

Though the abused RyanAir passenger, Delsie Gayle, still waits for an apology, RyanAir claims that it had sent in a written apology a week after the incident took place. The airline is believed to have reported the racist abuse to the Essex Police even before the video of the incident had gone viral.

Robin Keely, RyanAir’s Head of Communications, apologized to Gayle and her family for the adjacent passenger’s remark. He also stated that, by sending in a written apology and reporting the incident to the Essex Police, RyanAir had treated the matter with the seriousness it warranted.

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