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 large airports. 

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 submit one. 

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 said.

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