Volusia County

Unruly airline passenger complaints surge during pandemic, majority mask-related

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to update guidance that will ease the nationwide mask mandate on airplanes, buses and other mass transit next month.

On Monday, a group of Republicans filed a lawsuit to end what they described as an “illegal” mask mandate for individuals traveling on commercial airlines.


FAA data shows the mask mandate is the leading cause of unruly passenger complaints.

The data shows unruly passenger incidents are happening about six times per every 10,000 flights. That’s roughly a 50% drop from early 2021. But professor of aviation Jeff Price said that’s still very high, and incredibly high compared to before the pandemic.

READ: Airplane, public transportation COVID-19 mask mandates extended

“There’s clearly a connection between the masks and the unruly passenger,” Price said.

More than 70% of the roughly 6,000 unruly passenger reports in 2021 were mask related.

Of course, there are other unruly passenger incidents, like the one at Orlando International Airport where a woman tried to get away on a motorized luggage, that have nothing to do with masks and authorities say have everything to do with drunk and disorderly conduct.

READ: Woman accused of assaulting officer, trying to get away on motorized suitcase makes court appearance

“Really have this cornucopia of issues that are causing this incredible rise and unruly passengers,” Price said.

But he said he believes once the mask mandates drop, those incident numbers will go down.

READ: Drunk woman causes scene at OIA, tries to get away on motorized suitcase, police say

The CDC said it will work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when the mask rules can be lifted.

As of now, the mask mandate has been extended through April 18. The Biden administration said the extension reflects the varying COVID-19 rates nationwide.

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.

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