In January 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) introduced a new zero-tolerance policy for passengers misbehaving on planes. With this, bad behavior while traveling could lead to jail time and/or fines of up to $35,000.
Passenger who assaulted crew faces $52,500 fine
The FAA alleges that the passenger tried to open the cockpit door, repeatedly refused to comply with crew members’ instructions, and physically assaulted a flight attendant by striking him in the face and pushing him to the floor. The passenger then threatened the flight attendant by charging at him as he was trying to restrain the passenger. Flight attendants, with the help of another passenger, placed plastic handcuffs on the disruptive passenger. Later, the passenger freed himself from one of the handcuffs and struck the flight attendant in the face a second time. Police boarded the aircraft after it landed and took the passenger into custody.
Yow! A few things to note:
- While the FAA initially limited fines to $35,000, this passenger is facing a fine that’s 50% greater than the maximum
- This passenger is being punished retroactively, in the sense that the new zero-tolerance policy was introduced in January 2021, while this flight took place in December 2020
- Even so, I have no sympathy for this person — this kind of behavior deserves jail time rather than a fine, in my opinion
- The passenger now has 30 days to respond to the FAA’s enforcement letter
Other passengers face $9,000 to $27,000 fines
While the above is the worst incident, the FAA also highlights three other passengers facing fines.
The FAA is proposing a $9,000 fine against a passenger on a February 15, 2021, Allegiant flight from Fort Lauderdale to Knoxville. Here’s what the passenger is accused of:
The FAA alleges that a flight attendant instructed the passenger to wear her facemask over her mouth and nose as she boarded the flight. After the plane departed, a flight attendant again told her to wear her mask because she didn’t have it on. The passenger rolled her eyes and did not put on her mask. When the flight attendant again asked her to put on the mask, she put it on without covering her mouth and nose and used an expletive in saying she would not wear it. Later, she came to the front of the plane to use the lavatory and sat in the exit row because the lavatory was occupied. After the flight attendant told her she could not sit in the exit row, she got up, stood close to the flight attendant without wearing her mask over her mouth and nose, and screamed at the flight attendant. When another flight attendant attempted to provide the passenger with a disturbance form, the passenger began to curse, telling the flight attendants they couldn’t do anything.
The FAA is proposing an $18,500 fine against a passenger on a February 5, 2021, JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale to Las Vegas. Here’s what the passenger is accused of:
The FAA alleges that a flight attendant saw the passenger holding several mini bottles of alcohol that the airline had not served to him. The flight attendant told him multiple times that he could not drink his personal alcohol on the flight, but the passenger continued to do so. Additionally, flight attendants told him he had to wear his facemask over his mouth and nose unless he was eating or drinking, but he continually removed his facemask or wore it improperly. The disturbances that the passenger caused required flight attendants to alert the pilots about his behavior, which distracted them from performing their duties and responsibilities.
The FAA is proposing a $27,000 fine against a passenger on a January 1, 2020, Southwest flight flight from Fort Lauderdale to Las Vegas (yes, this goes back over 16 months!). Here’s what the passenger is accused of:
The FAA alleges that after taking his seat, the passenger began yelling and forcefully banging his hands on the seat in front of him, disturbing nearby passengers. During the flight, he yelled that he was going to kill someone and that he had a bomb and was going to blow up the aircraft. Because of his behavior, flight attendants relocated several nearby passengers, and the captain diverted the flight to Oklahoma City. Police took the passenger into custody after the plane landed.
I’m impressed by the FAA’s continued enforcement of its zero-tolerance policy. When it was first announced I figured it was just an empty threat, but the FAA has consistently been applying it, and fining misbehaving passengers thousands (and in some cases tens of thousands) of dollars.
The FAA has set a new fine record, with a $52,500 fine for someone who tried to assault a flight attendant twice.
What do you make of the FAA’s huge fines against abusive passengers?