Aviation security – unruly and antisocial passengers

Susan Goldsmid1*, Georgina Fuller1 & Rick Brown1

1 Australian Institute of Criminology

*corresponding author: susan.goldsmid@aic.gov.au

Unruly passenger incidents have received considerable media attention over the past few years. Unruly passengers are those whose demeanour, behaviour or failure to comply with cabin crew directions present a threat to the safety or security of the aircraft and/or those on board.

Australian airlines respond to and manage a small but consistent number of unruly passenger incidents every year. Specific strategies implemented by the airlines, the Australian Federal Police and government and regulatory bodies have focused on minimising the occurrence of and risks associated with these incidents. Despite this, unruly passenger incidents continue to occur, with ramifications for the safety and security of the crew, passengers and aircraft.

In June 2015, the Australian Institute of Criminology hosted a roundtable to discuss unruly passenger incidents. Participants included Australian airlines, the police, and other government and regulatory agencies involved in aviation security. This paper draws on both international literature and the roundtable discussions to identify issues related to the identification and management of unruly passenger incidents and the minimisation of associated safety and security risks.


Dr Susan Goldsmid is a Principal Research Analyst with the AIC. She has previously had an established career as a sworn member within the Australian Federal Police, holding various roles in operational, intelligence and training areas. Susan’s areas of specialisation include police practice, aviation security and futures work. She is currently undertaking research examining Victoria Police operational safety principles, the future of police investigation capabilities, and the future nature of the Australian illicit drug market.

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