Air Canada employees restrained an out-of-control teenager who allegedly attacked one of his own relatives while the plane was in the air.
The Wednesday afternoon flight from Toronto to Calgary was diverted to Winnipeg, where the 16-year-old suspect was arrested, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.
The suspect’s name wasn’t released because of his age, and the victim was treated on scene for minor physical injuries, according to law enforcement, which didn’t say what sparked the assault.
This is the latest example of a disturbing trend of unruly passengers that spiked to historic levels in 2021.
The number of unruly passenger reports never topped 1,200 between 2017 and 2020, according to Federal Aviation Administration statistics.
Then it exploded 492% from 2020 (1,009) to 2021 (5,983), the FAA reported.
Tyesha Best, who has worked as a flight attendant at JetBlue Airways for the last nine years and is the president of the Orlando branch of the Transportation Workers Union Local 579, told TheStreet she’s seen some of the most obnoxious behaviors over the last couple of years.
One example she gave was about a passenger who peed in an empty bottle in front of the other passengers and called the flight attendants the c-word.
“The flights are fuller, but the attitudes are also fuller,” Best told TheStreet in a December Q&A. “I saw a significant change during COVID. The stress of COVID itself played an adverse role in how customers behave on the aircraft.
“At one point, almost all the airlines removed the ability to purchase alcohol on flights because they saw that as a major contributing factor to the aggressive behavior of customers.”
It’s unclear what charges – if any – the teenager in the Air Canada incident will face, but violence on planes in the United States led to federal action last spring.
The FAA referred over 20 U.S. cases between December 2021 to April 2023 to the FBI for federal prosecution, as of August 2023.
“Unruly behavior poses serious safety concerns for passengers and crew alike, which is why we are addressing this issue aggressively,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in an August 2023 statement. “If you act out on an airplane, you can face criminal prosecution and fines up to $37,000 per violation.”
Best told TheStreet that flight attendants want to connect travelers with their families, but “they also should understand that we are airline employees that would also like to connect with our families when we come home from work.”
“That becomes difficult when we are subject to assault and therefore have to stop for medical care, which drives delays and not only affects the operations of the airline industry but also the customers on that aircraft,” Best told the news outlet.
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