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How Troublesome Will eVTOL Passengers Be by 2030?

How Rude! 

close up of the face of an angry man
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

On October 23, 2023, an off-duty Horizon Air pilot, Joseph David Emerson, sitting in the jump seat of a Seattle – San Francisco flight, tried to turn off the jet’s engines mid-flight which would, of course, cause the plane to crash. Eighty passengers were on-board when the flight-deck crew subdued Emerson, escorted him to the rear of the aircraft, and handcuffed him to a railing. The flight was diverted to Portland, where Emerson was arrested on 83 charges of attempted murder.

Disruptive Passenger Incidents Are Climbing

According to IATA, there was one incident for every 835 flights in 2021. That increased to one incident for every 568 flights in 2022 (the most recent year for which data is available). That’s a nearly 50% increase year-over-year and doesn’t bode well for the eVTOL/UAM industry, which hopes to be in full-swing by 2030.

Most eVTOLs will carry only a handful of passengers but it only takes one of them to cause catastrophic outcomes enroute.

From Swearing to Smoking and Worse

The report detailed the most common occurrences as being:

  • Non-compliance, such as smoking, failure to fasten seatbelts, exceeding carry-on baggage allowances or failing to store baggage as required, and consumption of their own alcohol
  • Verbal abuse
  • Intoxication

Perhaps the most troubling of the violations was physical abuse, which saw a 61% increase year-over-year. While many airlines currently maintain banned-passenger lists, as data protection laws increase, sharing of just who may be abusive onboard is becoming increasingly difficult. In 2022, the U.S. government issued US$8.4MM in fines and referred many cases to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for prosecution.

But as the skies become more crowded and the aircraft become smaller, the threat of disruptive passengers onboard eVTOLs is only likely to grow in the coming years. If more countries signed on to Montreal Protocol 14 (MP14), which gives authorities the legal tools they need to prosecute onboard offenders, much might be done to mitigate the number of incidents. By June 2023, only 45 countries had ratified MP14, a disappointingly low 33% of all international passenger traffic.

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AAM.today Staff

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