The holiday season always sees an increase in air travel, but in 2021, the flight industry has seen a dramatic increase in unruly passengers because of intoxication and mask mandates, among other reasons.

During the week of Nov. 7, 2021, there were 5.6 reported incidents per 10,000 flights, which is a dramatic rise from previous years. As of Nov. 16, 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports there have been 5,240 incidents, and 3,798, or 70%, of these incidents,were mask-related.

In an interview with CNN, Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, revealed that overall, 2021 has been the most disruptive year on record. 

“That's more disruptions in 2021 than the entire 31-year history of recording such behaviors. And we're not even done with the year yet," she said. 

However, not all incidents are related to mask requirements. Citing a survey of flight attendants, Nelson said that 61% of incidents accompany gendered, racial or homophobic slurs.

In some of these cases, unruly passengers injured flight attendants by attacking them.

The FAA began seriously monitoring the increase in violence and unruliness on flights, demanding stricter legal enforcement on Jan. 13, 2021.

The United States is easing restrictions but will not be totally without regulations: air passengers are required to be fully vaccinated and tested within three days of travel, and airlines will be required to implement a contact tracing system Thanksgiving 2021 is coming around, and while most travel restrictions have been lifted, passengers should still expect potential disruptions. Photo: AFP / Daniel SLIM

For passengers, this means being exposed to people who get violent, either delaying the flight before takeoff or diverting it mid-travel. For those set to travel this holiday season, Nelson shared tips on what to look for and how to handle a situation, including making sure to notify a flight attendant if there is behavior that is concerning, and doing so quickly, as waiting to do so could make issues worse.