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