An American Airlines pilot and union official told CNBC on Friday that disruptions to passengers on board in the cockpit are not going unnoticed and urged the US government to take further measures to prevent incidents.
“If I hear that one of my flight attendants or another passenger has been attacked, I will fly the plane 35,000 feet at the speed of sound, which is a distraction,” said Dennis Tajer in the “Squawk Box”.
“It’s a threat to everyone else on the plane. … We can’t just stop the plane and say, ‘All right, get out,'” added Tajer, who acts as spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association representing 15,000 pilots who are work for American Airlines.
Reports of unruly behavior by plane passengers have skyrocketed this year, such as a leaflet allegedly attacking a Southwest Airlines flight attendant in late May.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced on June 22 that it had received approximately 3,100 reports of recalcitrant behavior since Jan. 1, with 2,350 reports from passengers refusing to comply with the federal Covid mask mandate. The policy runs through September 14, and the FAA plans to enforce its zero-tolerance policy for passenger disruption while the mandate remains in place.
This year alone, the FAA has proposed a total of more than $ 560,000 in fines against passengers who refused to instruct flight attendants to comply with cabin crew and federal regulations. Passengers have 30 days to appeal the fines.
Flight attendants, airline lobby groups and several aviation unions, including the Allied Pilots Association, have jointly reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice about the incidents, Tajer said. In a letter sent late last month, the industry urged the DOJ to “commit to the full and public prosecution of acts of violence on board.”
“We’re seeing much more violent action like you can only see on your cell phone when people post it. That’s unacceptable,” Tajer told CNBC. “But now we have to see the backing of the actual law and criminal trials and get that very public, you know. It’s not just about retaliation. It’s about making sure that doesn’t happen.”
Tajer said implementing secondary barriers that add another layer of security to the flight deck when the cockpit door is open would be helpful in the current environment. Airlines and manufacturers are “fighting” to get these, he said, noting that lawmakers have already passed bipartisan laws to require the installation of secondary cockpit barriers on all commercial passenger aircraft.
“With all the stubborn passengers – and sometimes they are just not doing well – but if someone has shameful intentions, we must take all measures to defend the plane and, by extension, our passengers and our country,” said Tajer.
Tajer’s comments on flight disruptions come as more and more travelers return to heaven.
More than 47.7 million Americans are projected to travel over the holidays, with travel volumes almost entirely recovering to pre-pandemic levels, according to an AAA report. According to the AAA, this Independence Day is expected to see the second highest volume of travel ever after 2019, with a nearly 40% increase over the previous year during the pandemic.
On Thursday, the TSA screened 2,147,090 people at the airport security checkpoints, which is almost three times what it was on the same day of the week in 2020 and even surpassed pre-Covid levels in 2019.