During the pandemic we’ve seen more unruly airline passenger behavior than ever before. In order to combat this, in early 2021 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) introduced a zero-tolerance policy for bad behavior, whereby the agency is asking for a stricter legal enforcement policy against misbehaving airline passengers.
FAA proposes biggest-ever fines against passengers
The FAA has just threatened to fine two passengers a total of $159,000+ for their behavior on two separate flights in July 2021.
One passenger is facing an $81,950 fine, and that involves an American Airlines flight from Dallas (DFW) to Charlotte (CLT) on July 7, 2021. The FAA alleges that:
- The passenger threatened to hurt the flight attendant that offered help to the passenger after she fell into the aisle
- The passenger then pushed the flight attendant aside and tried to open the cabin door
- Two flight attendants tried to restrain the passenger, but she repeatedly hit one of the flight attendants on the head
- After the passenger was restrained in flex cuffs, she spit at, headbutted, bit, and tried to kick the crew and other passengers
A second passenger is facing a $77,272 fine, and that involves a Delta Air Lines flight from Las Vegas (LAS) to Atlanta (ATL) on July 16, 2021. The FAA alleges that:
- The passenger attempted to hug and kiss the passenger seated next to her, walked to the front of the aircraft to try to exit during flight, refused to return to her seat, and bit another passenger multiple times
- The crew had to physically restrain her
The passengers have 30 days from the time that they receive a letter from the FAA to respond to the agency.
Does the FAA’s zero-tolerance policy work?
In my opinion the FAA has done as good of a job as it possibly could with its zero-tolerance approach toward unruly passenger behavior. The problem is that the agency only has so much power:
- The FAA has asked airport police to arrest more unruly passengers, as all too often they’re just questioned and let go, which makes it harder for these passengers to be charged
- At the end of the day the FAA can only propose fines, and then it’s up to the legal system to actually follow through with this; I’d imagine in a vast majority of instances passengers are only paying a small portion of the proposed fine
The FAA claims that its zero-tolerance approach toward unruly passenger behavior plus its public awareness campaign has decreased the rate of unruly passenger incidents by 60%, but that “more work remains.” I can’t help but wonder if that’s really what any decrease in bad behavior can be attributed to:
- We’re seeing the FAA fine passengers roughly nine months after incidents actually occur, which doesn’t exactly seem like a very timely punishment (I get that the FAA has limited resources and lots of passengers to fine)
- I doubt many people who are in a state where they think it’s okay to bite another passenger would be impacted by a public awareness campaign, unfortunately
- I suspect a decrease in incidents can largely be attributed to society not quite being in the same fragile spot we were in over a year ago, between the election and coronavirus (which isn’t to say things are great, but I think they’re a bit less contentious than they were)
The FAA is continuing to propose fines against misbehaving passengers, and has just announced the two biggest fines yet. One passenger is facing an $81,950 fine for her behavior on a July 2021 flight, where she pushed, hit, heatbutted, spat at, and tried to kick, flight attendants.
I commend the FAA for continuing to take action against these passengers, though I wonder how much this actually impacts behavior…
What do you make of the FAA’s fines against passengers?