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STRATEGIES FOR TODAY’S WORKFORCE
ABSENCE | DISABILITY | RETURN TO WORK
2017 ANNUAL CONFERENCE
ANAHEIM | JULY 31-AUGUST 3, 2017
unruly passenger data,” according to
Airlines for America (A4A), a trade
organization representing airlines.
“The world of airline travel is not
easy today. … You have a mix of every
conceivable personality, heritage,
weight, all sitting in these tiny seats
that seem to get smaller all the time,”
said Bradley Meinhardt, area president
and managing director-aviation, Arthur
J. Gallagher & Co., a repeat Power
Broker® in the aviation category. “That
can be a volatile mix.”
One broker who asked not to
be identified said she personally
experienced a disconcerting incident on
an airline when the Muslim man sitting
next to her said he didn’t want to speak
with her because she was not a believer.
He did not ask that she be moved.
“It was a little uncomfortable,” she
said. “This is definitely something that
could be an issue and probably will be
DECISION-MAKING ON THE FLY
Safety will always be at the forefront
of the airline cabin crew’s response.
“The safety of our passengers and
crew are always our highest priority,
and the crew members on board the
plane are always mindful of the need
to keep all passengers safe,” said Kathy
Grannis Allen, managing director,
airline industry public relations,
communications, A4A, in an email.
“Airline employees rely on their
extensive customer service training to
address the rare instances when passenger
disruptions happen on board … . A4A
“Interfering with the flight crew’s
performance of duty is a federal
charge [on U.S. domestic flights],” said
Prosecution doesn’t require specific
intent to interfere, he said. “The mere
fact of it occurring is sufficient.”
For international flights, it’s more
complex. In many cases, the country
where a passenger leaves the plane
does not have jurisdiction to prosecute
if the aircraft is registered in another
country, according to the IATA, which
noted that the Tokyo Convention of
1963 governs offenses on flights.
The consequence is that the
offenders are left unpunished, said the
IATA, which noted that the high cost
of extradition to the original country is
likely to deter all but the most serious
The IATA has worked with some
countries to permit “state-of-landing
jurisdiction” to permit prosecution
of events that occur onboard foreign
But more often, it’s not prosecution
that’s involved but escorting offending
passengers off the plane if they
fail to quiet down or comply with
instructions from the cabin crew.
The practice of escorting passengers
off planes became a huge international
controversy in April when United
Airlines forcibly removed a 69-year-old
physician because it needed seats to fly
crew members to another city.
Cell phone videos showed what
appeared to be aviation security
occur, “case law says that if you merely
are upset by what an airline says to
you in the course of a flight, you have
no right of action.”
The same is true if a passenger
upsets another passenger, he said,
explaining that the Montreal
Convention [a global airline treaty
that establishes airline liability] has an
exclusive liability code which says the
airline will be liable for bodily injury
caused by an accident.
“If nothing qualifies as an ‘accident’
and/or you don’t have any ‘bodily
injury’ — in the sense those terms are
used in the convention — then there is
no basis for a carrier to be held liable,”
“You would not be able to claim,
for example, the humiliation and
vexation of being moved from your
assigned seat or, for example, as a
result of having to sit next to a woman
on a flight — if that was contrary to
your religion — because the Montreal
Meinhardt said even though such
conflicts don’t typically trigger an
airline’s insurance policies, that doesn’t
mean an airline wouldn’t attempt
to soothe hurt feelings by offering
apologies, flight vouchers or other
“I think airlines are doing a great
job,” he said. “When they have bad
press associated with these incidents
where a passenger feels they were
mistreated or had a situation that
unfortunately got out of control, they
are very proactive these days.
“They defuse it, accept it or
immediately try to resolve it. They
don’t keep quiet, but behind the scenes
they move to resolve it by reaching out
to the passenger.”
Dombroff added: “Airlines are in
the business of passenger satisfaction
and they want to protect their brand.
While there probably isn’t liability,
airlines have settled claims filed
against them related to these types of
issues to resolve the issue and remove
themselves from controversy.
“So long as cultural sensitivity and
political sensitivity continue as part of
our lives, it will intrude into aviation.
It’s inevitable,” he said. “Airlines are the
ones caught in the middle. &
ANNE FREEDMAN is managing editor of
Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at
officers banging the man’s head into
an armrest and dragging him from the
plane. The passenger, who suffered a
concussion and broken nose, planned
to sue the airline.
Once a plane is in flight, the captain
is the ultimate onboard authority, said
If an incident occurs in the air, the
captain can decide to divert the plane
to a closer landing field, where the
offending passenger will be removed.
According to the IATA, the cost of
a diversion could cost from $6,000 to
$200,000, depending on factors such
as whether fuel has to be jettisoned to
comply with the aircraft’s maximum
landing weight limit, landing fees,
charges, passenger compensation and
fuel uplift to complete the journey.
IATA best practices call for using
de-escalation techniques with unruly
passengers “and as a last resort the use
of restraints,” said Jonathan Jasper,
IATA cabin safety manager, in an email.
Ejecting a passenger or moving —
or refusing to move — passengers is
unlikely to trigger an insurance claim or
successful litigation by a passenger. And
losses associated with diverting a plane
would not lead to a successful insurance
claim by an airline, either, experts said.
Lawson of Clyde & Co. said that
an airline’s terms and conditions
usually give it the right to move
passengers, to refuse boarding and
eject passengers if they behave in an
unreasonable manner. Should that