FAA proposes new flight deck barrier after unruly passengers grab headlines

FAN Editor

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday said it is proposing a new requirement that would protect the flight deck by adding a second barrier as unruly passengers continue to make headlines.

The mandate would require planes used in commercial flights to install a second physical barrier between the passengers and flight crew. 

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A Lufthansa flight pulls up to the gate as it arrives from Munich, Germany at Miami International Airport, Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, in Miami.  (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky / AP Newsroom)

“Each additional layer of safety matters. Protecting flight crews helps keep our system the safest in the world,” FAA Acting Administrator Billy Nolen said.

The White House in 2021 added the second barrier stipulation to its “priority rulemaking list” after the FAA consulted with aircraft manufacturers, labor partners and other officials on how to increase air safety, the FAA said in a Wednesday statement. 

“Flight crews keep us safe when we travel to visit loved ones, explore new places and conduct business. They, too, deserve to be protected, and this rulemaking is an important step forward,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. 

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While the public have 60 days to comment on the proposed regulation, the announcement comes as passengers have increasingly made headlines for acting out while onboard. 

A Virgin Atlantic flight from London to Los Angeles was forced to land early in Salt Lake City Tuesday after U.K. resident William Stephen Hayes was accused of being “violent and unruly” during the international flight. 

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Boeing 737-A cockpit is seen at Washington Reagan National Airport

An inside view of the cockpit of a Boeing 737-A is seen during a Boeing ecoDemonstrator program at Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Arlington Virginia on July 28, 2021. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

It remains unclear what upset the 38-year-old, but Hayes had to be restrained by flight crew and passengers after he “became violent” mid-flight.

“While being restrained, Hayes allegedly assaulted the flight crew and at least one other passenger, which resulted in minor injuries. Hayes also kicked airplane seats and windows,” the Salt Lake City Police Department said in a statement Wednesday. 

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In-flight meltdowns were investigated on average ten times a month from 2015-2019, according to FAA statistics.

Unruly Passenger Chart  (Federal Aviation Agency)

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But that number spiked to over 91 reported incident investigations each month in 2021, a significant jump given the reduced number of flights carried out during the pandemic.

The number of investigations into unruly on-flight incidents in 2022 has since dropped to an average of 83 reported per month.

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