FAA Threatens To Jail & Fine Disruptive Passengers

Filed Under: Security/TSA

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is threatening jail time and/or up to a $35,000 fine for passengers who misbehave on US flights, rather than just a warning. Is this an empty threat?

New FAA policy for unruly passengers

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson yesterday signed an order directing a stricter legal enforcement policy against unruly airline passengers in the wake of recent events. This follows “a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior,” stemming from passengers’ refusal to wear masks, and from recent violence at the US Capitol.

How exactly does this new FAA policy work?

  • Passengers who interfere with, physically assault, or threaten to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft will face stiffer penalties
  • These penalties include fines of up to $35,000 and/or imprisonment
  • This new policy is initially in effect through March 30, 2021

How does this differ from the old policy? The FAA used to address unruly passenger incidents primarily through warnings and counseling. These cases will no longer be addressed in that way, but rather the agency will pursue legal enforcement action against misbehaving passengers.

Now, it’s important to note that the FAA doesn’t actually have regulatory authority over aviation security or no-fly lists, but rather the FAA works closely with federal law enforcement and national security partners on reported security threats that impact aviation safety. The FAA has initiated more than 1,300 enforcement actions against unruly passengers in the past decade.

Will this policy actually be enforced?

Even taking the events of the past few weeks and coronavirus out of the equation, I absolutely think we need to see stricter legal enforcement of how passengers behave on planes. It’s amazing how often we see major fights break out on planes, and no one gets charged. There’s a time and place for that — actually, no, there really isn’t — but an airplane especially isn’t the time or place for such behavior.

Reflecting on the events of the past few weeks, though, I do have to wonder if stricter punishment and enforcement would actually be much of a deterrent, though.

Generally speaking, the people causing trouble on planes with regards to masks and the recent events in DC are doing so to protect their “freedoms,” whether that’s “God’s breathing system” or “saving America.”

I get that what I’m saying is inherently political, but I think most people being honest with themselves (which admittedly excludes a lot of people) would agree with that. In other words, anti-maskers being banned from airlines aren’t being banned because they don’t know how to wear a mask or because they physically can’t, but rather because they don’t want to.

It seems that many people are unbothered by the potential repercussions, because some people view it as downright patriotic to abstain from wearing a mask.

Bottom line

The FAA is threatening to fine and jail unruly passengers in the coming weeks, which comes at a time of high tensions on planes, and perhaps in the country overall. I’ll be curious to see to what extent these new restrictions are actually enforced — I’m sure we’ll have some data points soon enough. šŸ˜‰

Do you think we’ll actually see this new FAA order lead to more passengers being fined and/or jailed?

  1. As far as I’m concerned any passenger(s) that cause a disturbance, particularly to the point of a diversion or police waiting at the gate for an arriving flight, FOR ANY REASON, should be immediately arrested, detained in jail pending a bail hearing and prosecuted. PERIOD. This should not be political albeit the politicians (including this guy) want it to be so.

    Also, maybe it’s time that the FAA start to look at the responsibility of airport bars because that’s where the problem often begins. It’s unreasonable to expect gate agents to do cursory “sobriety checkpoints” when boarding. I think airport bars and airline lounges should have a 3 drink maximum. And this is coming from someone that will have a couple drinks in the AA AC or inflight when in a premium cabin. But I don’t need to binge drink like I was back in college.

  2. if you write sarcasm, please end your post with /s many will miss the “sarcasm” and this “/s” internet social standard will help them

  3. @Jon

    New slogan for Spirit Airlines:
    “Home of the Bare Knuckle Fair Fight airline”

    Flight Attendants will announce the odds and take wagers prior to the initial punch!!

  4. Americans donā€™t understand sarcasm or irony. Thereā€™s a reason most American sitcoms are not terribly funny.

  5. I have been on planes where the FA insists on checking in my carry on bags. Often, I try to be nice and show the “see, there is room in the overhead…see, it fits”.

    I hope some Nazi FA does not say “don’t you dare try or you will be arrested!”. Unlikely but not a zero chance

  6. @Andreas, more do Trump supporters. Of course many Americans do. Have you checked out Randy Rainbow on you tube ? Brilliant.

  7. @derek

    You are an optimist.
    It seems there is a small proportion of flight attendants who are at least sometimes petty tyrants.
    Unless there are clear standards established that certain actions do not fall into the criminal category, and clear penalties for violating those standards, I could see hundreds a year referred to law enforcement who absolutely should not be.

  8. Really some of what I’ve seen posted on social media just reinforces how stupid society has become. One person on netters is comparing a bunch of drunken louds mouths on a flight to what happened on 9-11.

    There is no, and I mean no systemic issue with the consumption of alcohol in first class and behavioral issues. If one doesn’t like to consume alcohol inflight I doubt there’s going to be a FA forcing it on you.

    The real culprit are airport bars which from what I’ve seen will keep serving drink after drink. Yet not one person here (or netters or FT) has agreed that airport bars should be reigned in because even though that’s where the problem begins.

  9. I’m all for abiding by the rules. Never had any issues with FAs.

    But the idea of giving such an extreme power to FA scares me. Next we’ll see people heavily fined or jailed because they we not happy with broken entertainment system. The level of power FAs would get would be on the level of what police officers have but FAs aren’t even sworn officers.

  10. Something obviously needs to be done to reduce these incidences – usually hitting people with massive fines or imprisonment should help – who knows itā€™s a country of crazies thatā€™s for sure

  11. But the problem is practicality. We the public assume there is an unlimited supply of good law enforcement resources. There isn’t. We get officers onto each problem plane then we end up packing local jails with hundreds of drunks coming home from cancun or such. Then they pack in the courthouses for hearings. Even threats of jail and fines is pointless when they’re already drunk.

    Ultimately, education and/or being a responsible adult but there are so many in this country who have the brain capacity of a puppy its not going to happen.

    My solution…no liquor onboard and no drunks on board or better yet go back to beating your kids and put some common sense into their fool minds. šŸ™‚
    /s but not really.

  12. Honestly, can we just act like adults, here. Why does the plane have to be such an issue. Why do I feel like there is the potential for an outbreak on a flight within the US, but when I fly overseas all the time there is never a problem. I think there should be an officer on board each flight, dressed in regular clothes. I think that just the fact that an authority figure that can and will do something about the situation could be enough to control people. Some of the breakouts probably happen because people are like children in a way, they know that there is little that the FAs can and will do. Domestically speaking, is the alcohol really that important – the flight is just a couple of hours long usually.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reminder: OMAAT comments are changing soon. Register here to save your space.