Airlines reported 1,123 incidents of unruly passengers from January to July of this year, USA Today reports. The full-year record remains 5,973, set in 2021. Unruly incidents have not been limited to the U.S. Worldwide, an unruly incident was reported every 568 flights in 2022. That is up from 1 per 835 flights in 2021. "It seems like behaving angry and belligerent has become more acceptable in the last five to seven years," Jared Kenworthy, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, Arlington, said. "It's just more acceptable to be pissed off and angry all the time. ... It may be because everybody's putting them on social media." Political polarization, high travel costs, a turbulent economy and post-traumatic stress from the COVID-19 pandemic have all combined to exacerbate these incidents.
The most common types of unruly behavior include failing to follow crew instructions, verbal abuse and intoxication. Even after the FAA issued a zero-tolerance policy on unruly behavior in 2021, incidents continue to climb. Violations can now lead to criminal prosecution and fines of up to $35,000 rather than warnings or having to attend counseling. The airlines can also forbid disruptive passengers from traveling on their planes in the future. Since late 2021, the FAA has submitted over 250 of its most serious cases to the FBI. As of July, there have been six referrals to the FBI this year.