Global aviation body IATA on Tuesday demanded that governments close legal loopholes that allow unruly passengers to escape law enforcement for serious offences committed on board planes.
"Airlines are doing all they can to prevent and manage unruly passenger incidents, but this needs to be backed up with effective law enforcement," said Tony Tyler, head of the International Air Transport Association.
"Reports of unruly behaviour are on the rise."
The airlines' call came on the eve of a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organisation in Montreal, which aims to update the 1963 Tokyo Convention on passenger safety.
Proposed revisions to the treaty would make it easier for authorities to prosecute the small minority of passengers who are violent, disruptive, abusive, or act in a manner that might endanger safety, the IATA said.
"The Tokyo Convention was not originally designed to address unruly behaviour and there is a great deal of uncertainty amongst carriers as to what actions crew can take to manage incidents in the air," Tyler said in a statement.
"Passengers expect to enjoy their journey incident-free. And air crews have the right to perform their duties without harassment."
Under the current rules, jurisdiction over offences committed on board an aircraft is left to the country where the plane is registered.
But modern leasing arrangements mean that is not always the aircraft's home base or destination, the IATA said.
The airline industry now wants jurisdiction to be extended to cover both where the plane has touched down and the operator's home country to make it easier to stop troublemakers.
"If the aircraft lands in a state other than where the aircraft was registered, local authorities are not always able to prosecute," Tyler added.
"At the moment there are too many examples of people getting away with serious breaches of social norms that jeopardise the safety of flights because local law enforcement authorities do not have the power to take action."