There has been a surge in violence toward transportation workers and fellow passengers, particularly in air travel. Policymakers must take action, provide training, and enhance the preparedness of their staff and passengers.


Federal Transit Administration (FTA) data reveals a staggering 121% increase in attacks between 2008 and 2021, with the surge persisting in the past few years. Global incidents of unruly air travelers, including disruptive behaviors from intoxicated individuals and physical altercations, saw a 47% spike between 2021 and 2022, with a whopping 250 incidents reported in the United States and referred to the FBI.

Transit Violence is Workplace Violence

Though it may not be the first thing we think of when considering workplace violence—or “WPV”—these types of acts against transit workers are a form of exactly that. Recent incidents have highlighted the dangers faced by these employees as they perform their duties. In one alarming case, a Montana-bound American Airlines flight was diverted to Texas due to a passenger allegedly assaulting a flight attendant and at least one police officer. Such incidents underscore the severity of the issue and the need for immediate attention.

Industry experts attribute the rise in passenger aggression to various factors, including challenges faced by “no-frills” carriers that witnessed a loss of experienced staff during the Covid-19 pandemic. Inconsistent health regulations, particularly changing mask rules, have contributed to pandemic fatigue among the public, adding another layer of stress to already stressful travel experiences.

An Explosion of Bad Behavior

Despite these external stressors, passengers are expected to adhere to baseline acceptable behavior. Unfortunately, driven by a number of motivating factors, many haven’t gotten the memo and acting out has become a common occurrence.

While policymakers are attempting to take action, airlines and other transit operators must adapt to this shift by providing specialized training for their staff, and enhancing the preparedness of crew members to handle such incidents. The safety and well-being of both transit workers and passengers could depend on it.

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