The Federal Aviation Administration has launched the government's first study of "air rage," including a look at whether in-flight violence is increasing and can be tied to excessive drinking.
The study comes as U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asks airline executives to voluntarily limit passengers to two alcoholic drinks per flight, and as flight attendants step up a nationwide campaign highlighting the danger drunken or disorderly passengers pose to everyone on a plane.
"If left unchecked, I believe we are going to lose an aircraft some day to air rage," said Frank Del Gandio, manager of the FAA's Recommendation and Safety Analysis Division in Washington, who decided to begin the study after witnessing a woman shove a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight in New York in April.
Some officials say that if the study finds a clear link between drinking and violence, it could lead to a push to restrict or even ban alcohol in the air. If that happened, it would be the most sweeping change aboard airlines since the FAA banned smoking on domestic flights in 1990.
Del Gandio said it will take the FAA a year to finish the air-rage study. But alcohol restrictions could come more swiftly if Congress acts on Feinstein's call for a two-drink limit, said Darryl Jenkins, director of the Aviation Institute at George Washington University.