Approximately 10% of airline customer service agents were
physically assaulted in the last year, according to a General Accountability
Office (GAO) report.
In addition, 96 of the 104 agents interviewed in the study
reported experiencing verbal harassment, 46 said they had been verbally
threatened, and 22 said they had faced attempted physical assaults.
The GAO conducted the surveys in March and April at four
As part of the study, the GAO interviewed 23 stakeholders in
the airline and airport industries as well as law enforcement personnel and
prosecutors. Seventeen of those individuals said airline business practices,
such as those related to baggage fees, delays and cancellations, might lead
travelers to be aggressive toward customer service agents. Ten of the
stakeholders also said airport crowds and long lines can increase passenger
stress levels. Most of the interviewees said current law enforcement resources at
airports are sufficient to deal with unruly travelers.
In a statement, the Communications Workers of America (CWA),
which represents some airline customer service agents, said the GAO report
reinforces its standing position that violence against passenger service agents
is a serious problem.
"The report shows that more needs to be done to enforce
existing laws to protect passenger service agents, including provisions on
passenger assault that CWA members fought to get included in the FAA bill
passed last year," the union said.
The FAA bill required that airlines submit plans to the
agency by January detailing how they'll respond to passenger assaults.
In March 2019, FAA officials told the GAO that they had not
received such plans from all of the 49 U.S. airlines that were required to
The GAO said that of the six airlines it interviewed,
representatives from two said they had submitted their plans to the FAA. Representatives
from the other four airlines said their plans were in development, the GAO