A passenger is facing a $27,500 fine for assaulting a flight attendant on a Delta Air Lines flight in October 2020.
How a passenger assaulted a Delta flight attendant
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed a $27,500 civil penalty against an airline passenger for interfering with and assaulting a flight attendant. The passenger now has 30 days to respond to the FAA’s enforcement letter.
This issue involves a Delta Air Lines flight that was scheduled to operate from Miami to Atlanta on October 17, 2020. Here’s what’s alleged:
- A woman was traveling with and sitting next to another passenger who refused to wear his mask, secure his seat tray table, and fasten his seatbelt
- The flight returned to the gate as a result of the passenger’s refusal to follow the flight attendant’s instructions
- When the flight returned to the gate, flight attendants asked the two passengers to voluntarily get off the plane
- In response, the woman accompanying the non-compliant traveler ignored the flight attendant’s instructions, began yelling expletives at the flight attendant and other passengers, and even struck the flight attendant under her left eye
Here’s a video of the incident at the time:
Here’s what happened on our @delta flight from #Miami to #Atlanta tonight after a passenger refused to wear a mask as per policy and then gets into altercation with flight attendant. Video via @kingcoreythefirst on IG pic.twitter.com/TBBYq1VCBb
— Suzanne Kianpour (@KianpourWorld) October 20, 2020
Federal law prohibits interfering with aircraft crew or physically assaulting or threatening to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on the aircraft. Passengers are subject to civil penalties for such misconduct.
What surprises me about the FAA’s enforcement
First of all, the passenger’s behavior was completely out of line, and she should face serious consequences for her actions. It’s bad enough to verbally assault a flight attendant, but to physically assault someone on a plane is on a different level.
That being said, what I find interesting here is that the FAA is doing this under its new zero-tolerance policy towards passengers who cause disturbances on flights. The reason I find this surprising is that the FAA announced its new zero-tolerance initiative in January 2021.
Prior to this, it was extremely rare for passengers in the US to face civil penalties for misbehaving on planes. In a way this is being applied retroactively to actions on a flight.
I’m curious, does anyone know how this works in the event that the woman is fined $27,500 but can’t afford to pay? Most people don’t have that much money just sitting around, so what are the repercussions if that’s the case?
I commend the FAA for its new zero-tolerance policy, especially for situations like this that are caught on video, where there’s clearly one party fully at fault. As far as I’m concerned the passenger should have been arrested for that kind of behavior, but I suppose a $27,500 penalty is also pretty steep.
Here’s to hoping that these kinds of penalties act as a deterrent for other people behaving this way.
What do you make of the FAA’s proposed civil penalty for this passenger?