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  • iStock

  • iStock

  • iStock

  • Reuters

In 2013, airlines worldwide reported 8,000 'unruly passengers' incidents, but let's put that in perspective: There were about 740 million flyers in the U.S. alone that year who weren't behaving badly. Nevertheless, the International Air Transport Association says it's a growing and significant problem.

 

There have been lots of bizarre stories in recent years, including an apparently drunken United passenger who swigged liquid soap from a plane's lavatory then tried to bite a flight attendant's leg, or the Spirit passenger who allegedly groped fellow travelers and crew members.

 

The IATA is looking for solutions to this problem. 

 

Here is my two cents:

 

  • 1. Alcohol consumption caps

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    Limit alcoholic beverage sales to two drinks per person, per 3,000 miles (about the length of a cross-country trip). The flight attendant could entertain polite requests to exceed the limit on a case-by-case basis, but the seatmates of those requesting another jolt would get a veto.

  • 2. Party zones and quiet zones

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    Some planes are livelier than others, like flights to Vegas or maybe the Super Bowl--which is no fun if you want to nap or read. Put the raucous group in back and designate a quiet zone upfront. Maybe volunteers could be enticed into mid-plane buffer zone duty with free snacks.

  • 3. Three strikes, you're out

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    A crew member's word is law on a plane; you disobey at your peril. Maybe it's time to up the ante for those not yet in the unruly category but heading that way with a three strike rule.

     

    Earn a single strike each time a flight attendant has to say, "Turn off that phone," or "Buckle that belt." Another strike might be a seatmate's complaint like, "Don't be an armrest hog!" If the plane is still at the gate when a third strike is earned, he or she is escorted off. If it happens in mid-air, the other passengers could vote on a penalty. Please note that duct-taping an unruly passenger to an airline seat is not unheard of.

     

  • 4. Better training for flight attendants

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    Many flight attendants get some training in peaceful conflict resolution but with 8,000 incidents a year, it's clearly not enough. Perhaps seminars with real conflict experts like NHL or NFL referees would do the trick.

  • 5. Lighten up

    Reuters

    A security checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport boasts a TSA agent who entertains passengers with standup routines ("That's a very manly zebra bag you have, sir") --but we like the Southwest model best. The airline's fun-loving flight attendants turn safety demonstrations into comedy routines ("It's a no-smoking, no-whining, no-complaining flight [but] it is a 'please' and 'thank you' and 'you are such a good-looking flight attendant' flight.") and occasionally sing to passengers or play games with them. I suspect it's hard to stay unruly when you're deeply involved a rousing game of Which Passenger has the Ugliest Driver's License.

Rick Seaney is an airline travel expert and the co-founder of FareCompare.com, an airfare comparison shopping site