DUBLIN, Ireland: The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has raised concerns over an escalating safety issue involving unruly passengers, which is increasingly jeopardizing the safety of commercial flights.
According to newly released data from the IAA's 2022 safety performance review, there has been a notable surge in safety reports filed by pilots regarding disruptive passenger behavior over the past year.
In 2022, flight crews reported 298 incidents involving unruly or difficult passengers on board aircraft. This marks a significant increase compared to 216 similar incidents reported over the previous two years.
Remarkably, disruptive passengers have become the second-most common safety concern reported by pilots, a stark contrast to the pre-Covid era when they ranked much lower on the list of safety risks.
Of these incidents, approximately 100 were classified as posing a medium risk. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) recognized the emerging risk posed by difficult passengers for the 2023 summer season and initiated an awareness campaign in June.
"The conspicuous emergence of this issue on the ramp-up of operations post-Covid has been observed by other member states and EASA," the IAA stated.
Bird strikes continue to be the primary safety risk for commercial aircraft in Ireland, with a staggering 1,343 incidents reported by pilots in 2022.
The third most common safety concern reported in 2022 was windshears and microbursts, which can lead to sudden and rapid changes in flying conditions, with 239 incidents documented. Additionally, pilots reported 186 incidents of laser beam interference, an increase from 175 incidents in 2021.
Fatigue among pilots remains a concern, with 149 reports filed last year. A report by the European Cockpit Association found that four out of ten Irish pilots claimed insufficient time for recovery between duties, and nearly two-thirds believed that the risk of fatigue was inadequately managed by their airlines.
The IAA's safety review also noted pilot concerns regarding lightning strikes (35) and encounters with turbulence (36) in 2022. Four non-fatal accidents involving Irish-registered commercial aircraft, were identical to the figure in 2021, all related to passenger injuries during disembarkation.
In summary, Irish airline pilots and those operating Irish-registered aircraft submitted 7,532 mandatory occurrence reports related to safety issues in 2022, following nearly 615,000 flights. This marked an increase from the combined total of the previous two years, suggesting an improved reporting culture in the aviation industry despite the challenges of returning to normal operations.
The IAA emphasized that the chances of experiencing a safety incident on a flight operated by an Irish-registered aircraft remain very low, with over 98 percent of flights reporting no safety occurrences requiring IAA notification and around 99.99 percent of flights operating without accidents or serious incidents. However, it added, "It remains important to monitor these events to ensure they remain under control."