10 passengers, accused of unruly behavior on flights, face $225K in fines, FAA says

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Ten passengers have been hit with fines totaling $225,287 due to alleged unruly behavior on flights, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. 

The agency announced the civil penalties in a Wednesday news release, outlining 10 new cases where passengers shoved flight attendants, used expletives, threw fits and refused to comply with the FAA requirement for face masks.

A woman traveling on a Horizon Air flight from Austin, Texas, to San Francisco, California, on May 18 ignored crew instruction to fasten her seatbelt, punched and screamed at her husband and son, threw trash at a flight attendant and snatched cookies from a nearby passenger, the FAA said. She faces a $32,000 fine. 

A woman flying American Airlines on Jan. 21 from Tampa, Florida, to Miami was fined $24,000 after she allegedly failed to wear her face mask and became disruptive with her travel companions. On her way off the plane, authorities said she physically assaulted the flight attendant by shoving her in the chest. 

A man who flew JetBlue Airlines from Newark, New Jersey, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Nov. 7, 2020 was fined $17,500 after he allegedly used profane language and physically assaulted a flight crew member. Authorities said he yelled at a crew member and pushed him. The captain of the plane ended up diverting the flight to Richmond, Virginia, and police met the passenger at the gate. 

Other cases highlighted in the release include a woman accused of spitting on a crew member on a Feb. 3 Southwest Airlines flight from Boston to Chicago and a man who attempted to enter the cockpit on a May 5 Southwest flight from New York City to Chicago.

So far this year, the FAA has documented 5,114 reports of unruly passengers and 3,710 reports of refusing to wear a face mask. The agency says 239 cases have been met with penalties. 

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Of this year’s unruly reports, more than 100 passenger disturbances involved physical assault, according to the news release. It is illegal to assault fellow passengers or crew aboard a flight. 

The number of unruly passenger incidents skyrocketed after the introduction of the mask mandate on planes, at airports and on public transport on Feb. 1, which is slated to last until Jan. 18, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

The FAA said though the number of unruly passenger incidents on commercial flights has dramatically plummeted since the launch of its Zero Tolerance campaign, launched in January 2021, the rate “remains too high.” 

The policy allows the agency to pursue legal enforcement action against passengers who assault, threaten, intimidate or interfere with airline crew members. 

Though the FAA doesn’t have criminal prosecutorial authority, it can impose fines and has referred cases to the Justice Department “where the evidence supports criminal review,” the news release stated.

Multiple rowdy flight incidents have made headlines this year.

An American Airlines flight attendant suffered a concussion in October after a passenger allegedly struck her in the face during a flight from New York to California, prompting the pilot to divert to Colorado.

In September, a Las Vegas man traveling from California to Utah was cited by police for public intoxication and disorderly conduct after pointing and yelling at people and screaming “Joe Biden” on an American flight. In August, the FAA fined a passenger on a JetBlue flight from New York to Orlando for allegedly throwing objects at other passengers and grabbing a flight attendant by her ankles and putting her head up her skirt. 

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