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Friday, October 22, 2021
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FAA Proposes Hefty Penalties for Unruly Air Passengers

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposes civil penalties ranging from $9,000 to $32,750 against four airline passengers for allegedly interfering with and, in two cases, assaulting flight attendants who instructed them to obey cabin crew instructions and various federal regulations. 

The cases are as follows: 

  • $32,750 against a passenger on a Feb. 7, 2021 jetBlue Airlines flight from the Dominican Republic to New York. The FAA alleges the passenger failed to comply with multiple flight attendant instructions to wear a facemask; threw an empty alcohol bottle into the air, almost hitting another passenger; threw food into the air; shouted obscenities at crew members; grabbed a flight attendant’s arm, causing her pain; struck the arm of another flight attendant twice and scratched his hand; and drank alcohol that had not been served to her by the cabin crew. As a result of the passenger’s actions, the flight returned to the Dominican Republic.
  • $16,500 – against a passenger on a Jan. 26, 2021 Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago, Ill., to Sacramento, Calif. The FAA alleges the passenger refused to comply with a flight attendant’s instruction to wear his mask over his nose and mouth when he boarded the aircraft and again when he took his seat. When a second flight attendant instructed the passenger to wear his mask over his nose and mouth, he became combative and used offensive language. A supervisor came on board and asked the passenger to leave the plane. As the passenger walked with his luggage toward the exit door, he called each of the two flight attendants “pathetic,” and hit one of the flight attendants with his bags.|
  • $9,000 against a passenger on a Dec. 22, 2020 Delta Air Lines flight from Minneapolis, Minn., to Philadelphia, Penn. The FAA alleges the passenger got out of her seat during takeoff, began walking up and down the aisle, and repeatedly said she wanted to get off the aircraft. Multiple flight attendants repeatedly told the passenger to return to her seat and fasten her seatbelt, but she refused to comply. As a result, the flight returned to Minneapolis.
  • $9,000 against a passenger on a Jan. 30, 2021 Alaska Airlines flight from Bozeman Mont., to Seattle, Wash. The FAA alleges the passenger did not comply with the airline’s facemask policy while boarding the plane, and flight attendants provided him with a facemask. The passenger was not wearing a mask when the plane left the gate, and flight attendants reminded him of the airline policy. Flight attendants repeatedly asked him to put on a mask as the plane taxied to the runway, but he failed to do so. As a result of his actions, the captain returned the flight to the gate and the passenger was removed from the plane.

Federal law prohibits interfering with aircraft crew or physically assaulting or threatening to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft. Passengers are subject to civil penalties for such misconduct, which can threaten the safety of the flight by disrupting or distracting cabin crew from their safety duties. Additionally, federal law provides for criminal fines and imprisonment of passengers who interfere with the performance of a crewmember’s duties by assaulting or intimidating that crewmember. 

The FAA is strictly enforcing a zero-tolerance policy toward passengers who cause disturbances on flights or fail to obey flight crew instructions in violation of the FAA’s regulations or engage in conduct proscribed by federal law. 

The passengers have 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency. The FAA does not identify individuals against whom it proposes civil penalties. 

Read the announcement at the FAA

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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