The National Academies

ACRP 07-20 [Active]

Reducing and Managing Disruptive and Unruly Behavior in Airports

  Project Data
Funds: $399,540
Staff Responsibility: Joseph D. Navarrete
Research Agency: TransSolutions
Principal Investigator: Scott Houston
Effective Date: 7/7/2023
Completion Date: 1/6/2025


The number of incidents of threatening and violent behavior in commercial airports has increased in recent years.  Because the focus has been placed on addressing behavior in flight, information and guidelines for airports to address this issue are limited.  Research is needed to identify causes that contribute to unruly behavior, review current processes and practice, and provide guidelines to help airports prevent, reduce, and manage incidents of unruly behavior.


The objective of this research is to develop a guide to reduce and manage disruptive and unruly behavior incidents in a commercial airport setting.

 The guide should include, at a minimum:

  • A primer providing a definition, background, and scope of the issue, including:
    • An understanding of potential offenders (passengers, employees, people experiencing homelessness);
    • Perspectives of relevant stakeholders;
    • Descriptions of possible root causes (e.g., alcohol and drugs, traveler anxiety, travel disruptions, homelessness);
    • Overviews of relevant policies and regulations;
    • General assessment of previous and current initiatives and practices to address disruptive and unruly behavior incidents in airport settings;
    • A review of practices in other settings (e.g., aircraft, stadiums, cruise ships, bus and rail terminals); and
    • Industry challenges to reducing and managing disruptive incidents, including conflicting priorities among stakeholders;
  • Tools and strategies for airports and airport stakeholders to reduce and manage disruptive and unruly behavior incidents based on specific situations (e.g., intentional and unintentional noncompliance, location of incident) including:
    • Facilitating coordination among stakeholders (e.g., federal and local law enforcement, regulators, airlines, airport staff) to ensure consistency among strategies and processes;
    • Measures for post-incident accountability for significant violations as a deterrent;
    • Enhancing training and development for all airport-based employees (e.g., strategies for de-escalation and improved customer service);
    • Developing an awareness/education campaign for the traveling public (e.g., social media, television, radio);
    • Modifying facility design (e.g., materials, acoustics, olfactory, lighting, aesthetics, decompression spaces);
    • Anxiety reduction through onsite communication (e.g., signing, messaging, video) and other initiatives (e.g., pet programs); and
    • Tracking effectiveness of implemented measures;
  • Guidelines to help airports select, implement, and track effectiveness of measures to reduce and manage disruptive incidents based on their unique circumstances (e.g., governance structure, regional/jurisdictional challenges, resource availability); and
  • Case studies of successful implementation and lessons learned.


The research plan should include, at a minimum, the following interim deliverables, for ACRP and panel review and approval:

  • Review of relevant peer reviewed and trade literature;
  • Data collection and analysis plan, including methods and sources (e.g., surveys, interviews, focus groups, review of incident reports from various stakeholders), variables (e.g., incident type, location of incident, airport characteristics), and metrics (e.g., incidents per unit of enplanements); and
  • Interim report documenting the research effort and results of the project to date including a draft of the primer; the proposed case studies, with rationale; initial list of tools and strategies; and recommended next steps to complete the research.

The research plan should include, at a minimum, the following checkpoints with the ACRP project panel:

  • Kickoff web meeting to be held within 1 month of notice to proceed;
  • Web meeting to review and approve the data collection and analysis plan; and
  • In-person interim report review meeting.

The final deliverables will include:

  • Guide, including primer, tools and strategies, guidelines and case studies;
  • Technical report documenting the entire research process and findings;
  • Technical memo titled, “Implementation of Research Findings and Products”; 
  • Summary of Key Findings; and
  • Further Recommended Research Memo.



STATUS: Research is underway.


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