Contrary to what some may believe, flights are not always safe for the passenger physically or emotionally. Every now and then unfortunate or undesirable incidents do occur with regards to a verbal altercation, racist language, sexual harassment, or plain violent behavior. For the most part, one can rest knowing that the airline staff both before boarding and during flying are keeping an eye out for unsavory characters and potential bursts of bad behavior. While every misdemeanor is different, here is some information, in a nutshell, to know what happens when a law is broken on a plane.
Flight Attendants Are First Respondents
For smaller acts of misbehavior such as being overly loud or rude to fellow passengers or the cabin crew, it is the flight attendants that will intervene to ascertain what can be done. Flight attendants are given basic training regarding dealing with abusive passengers looking to create trouble especially after drinking more than they should. For purposes regarding the safety of the aircraft more than two flight attendants may collectively gather to diffuse the tension as they cannot allow a passenger to ruin the flight, hurt anyone or wander around.
Second, most flights have an air marshal or two onboard incognito so that they can quickly deescalate a situation that seems problematic. They will usually intervene when asked or if they are close enough to witness the situation for themselves. Any measures that are within reason will be employed to restrain a passenger if necessary. For more violent and dangerous potential crimes such as terrorism, murder, hijacking, etc, the pilot will be notified who in his capacity as commander-in-chief may order drastic measures such as physically restraining and manhandling the person who poses a threat or even drugging them. In some extreme cases of a breach in security, the pilot may change the route as he sees fit and have an unscheduled early landing.
Communication With Air Traffic Control
When the pilot has ascertained the level of the threat (even if it is relatively minor like a drunk, abusive passenger), they will radio in and notify air traffic control as soon as possible. This gives prior notice to the proper authorities on the ground to prepare themselves and this may include calling the police in the area. Upon landing, the police will enter the aircraft and restrain the passenger/s in question and arrest them, subjecting them to the laws of the country or state where they have landed. Bear in mind that many minor incidents go fairly unpunished on the orders of the pilot because some people may have health concerns, jet lag, extreme exhaustion, or so forth especially if they are on their third or fourth flight in two days. Having edibles on a plane when that flight doesn’t allow it for example and then refusing to relinquish the goods may be considered a minor incident of less than ideal behavior.
For situations that have escalated out of control, the perpetrator may even end up with a heavy fine or possible imprisonment in the country where the plane has landed. For that reason, they are better off hiring a lawyer as soon as possible to deal with the charges and they can search according to the location such as for an Orlando criminal defense attorney. Know that in many cases the perpetrator may be extradited to his own country to face charges as well. Aviation laws are always being updated as the Tokyo Convention which is highly adhered to in this regard is many decades old and does not encompass all the events that can occur.
Here are a few incidents ranked according to the severity that can occur on a plane or have historically occurred during flights occasionally:-
- Interference or law of adherence to rules– this is a very common occurrence in which a drunk or rude passenger will use vulgar or impolite speech against a fellow passenger or any of the cabin crew. Most airlines have strict rules regarding rudeness to the crew or flight attendants so this violation is usually nipped in the bud and not allowed to escalate. The flight attendants or other crew will use their verbal training to calm the passenger down and to either give them what they need or force them to accept the situation as is. Most countries have federal charges regarding interference with air staff and that can become a serious charge.
- Threatening or harassing– if a passenger is verbally, physically, or sexually harassing anyone around them in any capacity this will also not be tolerated. Perpetrators that use a loud voice or sarcasm or threaten to harm anyone in any way usually face charges upon landing and evidence may also be stored for that purpose.
- Possessing firearms, guns, or other concealed weapons– this charge is a precursor to more serious but very infrequent incidents such as those of hijacking or terrorism. If anyone is in possession of concealed weapons such as guns or a knife and they have the intention of or are threatening to use it, then air marshals on the plane will use physical force to eliminate the threat. The passenger may even be locked up separately after being forcibly disarmed and restrained. Upon landing they are likely to face very serious charges in that country or state.
- Terrorism– this is the most serious crime that can be committed but it rarely ever occurs especially onboard flights. If the terrorist is trained to assemble an explosive or use firearms during the flight and fully exhibits the intention to do so, they can even face life imprisonment or worse for this particular crime.
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