Cabin crew on Swiss airlines demand protection against air-rage

As the holiday season takes off, Swiss airlines have joined an international campaign to pressure governments to implement measures to combat air-rage.

This content was published on July 6, 2000 minutes

Kapers, which represents cabin crew from Swissair, Crossair and Balair, has called on the Swiss government to do more to protect cabin crew from passengers who turn violent.

The International Transport Workers Federation, with the support of Swiss cabin crew unions, launched a charter to ensure that disruptive passengers could be prosecuted in any country. The central problem, the federation believes, is one of jurisdiction.

"What we would like is an international convention to be ready for all governments to sign by the end of 2002, for governments to have in place mandatory rules to ensure that people can be prosecuted," said Sarah Finke, the international federation's spokeswoman.

The Federal Aviation Office said the law does permit passengers who endanger the lives of others on board to be arrested. It does not forsee changing its law, but said it was willing to discuss changes on a case by case basis.

The spokesman for Kapers, Ralph Knöpfel, himself a flight attendant, said Swiss cabin crew lacked the skills necessary to deal with such incidents. The federation has demanded training as well as equipment for flight attendants in order to resolve situations on board aircrafts that turn violent.

Knöpfel said around 500 air-rage incidents have been recorded in Switzerland alone. "We are talking about verbal abuse, also cases of violence against collegues and sexual harrassement," said Knöpfel.

Sarah Finke from the federation said air-rage incidents have increased between four and seven times in recent years. "But these incidents are particularly serious because if you are 30,000 feet in the air you can't necessarily deal with the it," Finke said.

"You can't call the police, you can't get away, and it is very frightening for other passengers on board the aircraft."

Examples of air-rage are not hard to find. "We have one incident where a passenger tried to crash a plane," said Finke. "We have an example of a woman who was attacked with a vodka bottle and it was smashed over her head and her body was then jabbed with the pieces of glass," continued Finke.

Knöpfel explained that staff cuts on the ground and in the air are primarily to blame for the crew's decreased ability to deal with air-rage. Further, the crew have to carry on working even after the abuse or attack.

By Jamsheda Ahmad and Samantha Tonkin

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