Swissair has decided to take a hard line with angry or aggressive passengers, following a rapid increase in their numbers. The airline said it would carry plastic ties to subdue unruly customers on its aircraft as of January 1 next year.
Swissair said on Wednesday it had opted for this solution, following a crackdown on "air rage" led by a number of American companies. Legally, there is no problem for an airline to have its crew subdue a passenger in this way.
A spokesman said the company did not want to introduce the new measure immediately, to give time for the cabin crew to receive adequate training.
However, the Swissair project is not to everyone's taste. The crew's union, Kapers, says tying down passengers is outright dangerous.
According to Kaper's Riet Niggli, this practice is "discouraged by every police force in the world". But he said he doubted Swissair's decision could be reversed.
Niggli is also convinced the ties will not solve the problem. "It's how these passengers are dealt with after landing that is important."
Air rage is becoming more and more frequent. In 1996, Swissair recorded 285 such incidents, and 502 in 1999.
Alcohol is considered the number one cause of unruliness aboard aircraft. "Many passengers are often drunk when they get on board, or they bring their own bottles of alcohol," said Swissair spokesman, Rainer Meier.
An aircraft's commander can decide to head for the nearest airport if he or she feels the flight's safety is in jeopardy. This happened twice with SAir Group flights last year.
One aircraft turned back to Zurich, while another had to land in Rome. When a flight is delayed or interrupted, the unruly passengers can expect legal and financial consequences.
swissinfo with agencies