The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Wednesday that it would take a much tougher approach to anti-maskers and disruptive passengers following a number of high-profile incidents on domestic flights which have been linked to violent protestors who descended on the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. last week.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said the agency would adopt a much stricter enforcement policy against unruly passengers after some passengers disobeyed crew commands to wear face masks, harassed flight attendants and put flight safety at risk by refusing to comply with safety instructions.
In many cases, disruptive passengers failed to recognise the authority of flight attendants in giving lawful commands, instead believing that they had the right to pick and choose what rules they should adhere to.
Referencing the attack on the Capitol for the first time, Dickson said the FAA would immediately pursue civil penalties that can carry fines of as much as $35,000 against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members through March 30, 2021.
Traditionally, the FAA would first consider alternative action like issuing a warning or seeking counselling but these soft-touch penalties will be abandoned for the next few months as the agency clamps down on increasingly partisan disruptive passenger behavior.
The FAA, however, pointed out that it didn’t have the power to add passengers to a federal ‘no-fly’ list and wasn’t authorized to mandate face mask-wearing on passenger flights. The agency will, though, pursue passengers who refuse to comply with lawful crew member instructions to wear a face mask.
“This will help serve as a deterrent to unruly passengers who had been bucking the rules of aviation safety,” commented Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants.
“First strike and you’re out,” Nelson continued while saying her union was still working with other agencies to have anyone who was identified as invading the Capitol last week permanently banned from flying.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.