Travel jobs and disruptive passengers – do they go hand in hand?

Why do most people go into the travel industry? The answer is pretty obvious – to be able to travel, and have the opportunity to see the world as part of their travel job.

The common entry points for travel and tourism jobs are travel agent jobs, ground staff roles and flight attendant positions. None of these roles are that well paid, but as you climb the ladder there are more lucrative travel jobs to aim for. However, most people entering the travel industry are driven by their interest in travel and working in jobs that involve travel, and it’s that, rather than money, that motivates them.

But as reality TV programmes set in airports and video clips on social media show us, more and more customers are behaving in an unruly way. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) lists what is deemed to be unacceptable behaviour on their website, and also states that there has been a 100% increase in instances of reported disruptive behaviour since 2015. Is it worth going into the profession only to have to deal with these disruptive passengers?

Belligerent boozy passengers

One airline crew member turned blogger, Riina Keinonen, says in this article from Finnish airport company Finavia that she believes 90% of difficult on-board situations are related to alcohol consumption.

People are in holiday mood before they board – which is understandable. But drinking too much before boarding or while on the plane can cause rowdiness and rudeness leading to serious safety issues. Trouble can arise if airline staff refuse someone a drink because they already seem intoxicated. In business class in particular, people think they’re entitled to as much as they like because they feel they’ve paid extra for it.

But the primary concern of any airline steward is safety. They need to know that if there was an emergency the passengers would be alert enough to vacate the plane quickly.

Dealing with disruptive passengers

Airline crew are taught to deal with disruptive passengers as part of their training. Part of the travel job is to try to resolve issues calmly, and make sure all crew are united in decisions such as not giving out more drinks to already drunk passengers.

Airline crew often have their own tactics for assessing how drunk a passenger is. Some watch how often passengers use the bathroom, or keep an eye out to make sure passengers don’t switch between galleys to get extra drinks, and others engage passengers in jokey conversation to assess how drunk they are.

If the situation starts to become threatening to passenger safety, they can decide to divert the plane to remove the passenger. The passenger may then liable for the costs – which can run to thousands of pounds.

As this article in The Week, shows, airlines are cracking down on disorderly behaviour by threatening fines of up to £80,000. The government-backed One Too Many campaign warns that passengers can face a lifetime ban on top of fines from some airlines if they cause trouble on flights. The £80,000 figure comes in if a passenger becomes liable for stopover costs once the crew and pilot decide to divert the plane in order to remove the difficult passenger. This cost would be on top of a fine of up to £5000 if found guilty of breaching air navigation orders, which can also come with up to 2 years in prison.

The Civil Aviation Authority has stats to show that 417 flights were endangered by abusive and violent travellers last year, which is more than double the total five years earlier. Airlines say that the true number may be higher as only very serious cases are logged by the CAA.

So, is it worth the risk of having to deal with problem passengers? Well, yes. As we said at the beginning, most people want travel and tourism jobs because they allow them to travel, as with this positive-thinking BA crew member interviewed in Cosmopolitan. Dealing with people is part of these travel jobs, and as airline crew are refreshed in their safety training every year, you can be fairly sure you’re in good hands.

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