Delta Passenger Fined $27,500 For Assaulting Crew

Filed Under: Delta

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:

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?

Bottom line

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?

  1. Since debtors prisons are not a thing in the US they would take money from her tax returns or her paychecks. If she only makes minimum wage (or more accurately the wage at which garnishment is not allowed) and has no property/savings then she won’t end up paying but it will follow her for the rest of her life.

  2. Throw the book at them. No money? (Yeah, sure.) OK then, off to debtors prison you go. Oh, wait — you found $27,500? Great. Lifetime flight ban, on the no-fly-list, now GTF outa here.

    Need to make examples of idiots when they act up, or this will continue. Zero tolerance until people learn to behave. That will take a while. That’s OK.

  3. Should have been 275k instead and life time ban!
    No money? Just put her 6 months digging by hand in a graveyard!

  4. @Dick Bupkiss

    Well if you have 100k to spend on legal fees you can receive a slap on the wrist and be back up in the air in no time.

  5. @D3kingg – Most idiots who behave like this don’t have 100k to spend on legal fees. Yes, a few do. So they spend 100k to get off the hook. The system isn’t perfect, but the system must be used to keep that kind of douchebaggery from becoming normalized and accepted (to the extent that it can). Nowadays, that kind of behavior is widespread and accepted as OK. So, surprise, plenty of people act that way (haven’t you ever known any 4-year-olds?). If there are harsh consequences to behaving like that, and those consequences are routinely applied when people act up, eventually the word will get out and most people will stop being a-holes. It won’t change quickly — acting up and being a complete ass has become popular and even admired (note the cult of personality that literally worships a certain former president because he openly behaves like a a complete ass). But if society fails to hold people accountable, the bad behavior will continue and just get worse. Shrugging and looking the other way is no solution. This is why every society has laws, norms, and behavioral expectations. If “anything goes” then everyone’s life will be miserable. Really basic, not complicated. Not always easy, but necessary…just ask any (successful) parent.

  6. Aussie – Let’s say the person was “uncivilised.” Nevertheless, you seem to be a racist jackass.

  7. It’s like any unexpected bill. You sell your car, borrow from a relative, mortgage your house, etc. If you punch out flight attendants you should be prepared to accept the consequences. And definitely you should be put on the do not fly list for ALL airlines. And a course in anger management should be required.

  8. @Dick Bupkiss

    Not to mention the humiliation and embarrassment you’d have to go through after being seen on social media portrayed as a meth head in front of everyone , family , friends , colleagues , etc A harsh penalty in of itself.

    Before making generalizations as to how people should act consider this you never know what someone has been through in life. For example some were abused as a child.

  9. She should be fined a lot more than that. If she need to declare bankruptcy, then she will minimally learn that by assaulting a stranger is a no go anywhere period. She should also be banned for life on all airlines and put in jail for at least a month for assault.

  10. Sel, D –

    Karen is used to stereotype entitled or racist white females. Shaquanna is the stereotype name for uncooperative or violent black females.

  11. Well she should be fined and on the no fly list for a few weeks but because her travel ing partner was the one who was non-compliance why should she have been booted from the plane..That part seems to be left out…The whole situation probably could have been a little bit of discretion in the first place should be practiced..Some times power goes to people’s heads..But hiting the flt att is not right so there must be some punishment given…

  12. Considering someone was assaulted and the entire flight had to return to the gate I would say raise the fine and give a chunk of the $$ to the flight attendant. Then give everyone on board $$ for every hour of delay. If Karen can’t pay up then all the passengers get to give her a slap. Personally I would trade in any monetary compensation to give her a good slap. Slap her so hard her momma would feel it.

  13. Anyone that doesn’t realize that their actions in this day and age will end up on the internet thanks to cell phone cameras needs to stay at home.
    Disturbances on aircraft AUTOMATICALLY result in a dozen cell phone cameras pointed at you.

  14. She should be fined, thrown in jail and face a lifetime ban. Just as if she were rioter at the Capitol Building! ….oh wait a minute….

  15. So, if they’re really gonna throw the book at people… why isn’t this person getting fined and going to jail? Last time I checked assault usually comes with a jail sentence, ans in this case I’d argue flight attendees are a protected class, making this felony assault…

  16. I’m all for the zero-tolerance policy, and I hope the FAA enforces it every time there’s an incident like this one. This behavior is appalling, and they should lose their privileges to fly commercial.

  17. Throw in jail until she rots…. the pax will have no money to pay the fine, don’t let this go, into prison you go, don’t call us, we’ll call you.

  18. My guess is she will face no prison time, the fine will be reduced. Hopefully she’ll stay on the “no flight list” for a long time. Maybe 10 years for starters.

  19. She’ll pay one way or another if she doesn’t have the money.

    They will probably hand it off to a debt collector, but even if they don’t she’ll still wind up in court fighting a judgement. If she just refuses to pay, that 27k will easily balloon into twice that with penalties and interest. They’ll garnish her wages, her tax returns, or could potentially place liens on any property she owns until the debt is paid in full.

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