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FAA Extends ‘Zero Tolerance’ Threat of $35,000 Fines for Anti-Maskers, Disruptive Passengers

FAA Extends ‘Zero Tolerance’ Threat of $35,000 Fines for Anti-Maskers, Disruptive Passengers

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Monday that it would extend a zero-tolerance policy for dealing with anti-maskers and disruptive passengers indefinitely because the number of reports of bad behavior are still far too high. Since late December, U.S. airlines have reported over 500 cases of unruly passengers despite tough new enforcement rules.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson introduced the ‘first strike and you’re out’ policy in early January following a series of disruptive incidents involving mainly Trump supporters onboard flights to and from Washington DC ahead of the Presidential inauguration.

Passengers had disobeyed crew commands to wear face masks, harassed flight attendants and put flight safety at risk by refusing to comply with safety instructions, Dickson said when he announced plans to move straight to enforcement action rather than seeking soft-touch resolutions like counselling or warnings.

“The number of cases we’re seeing is still far too high, and it tells us urgent action continues to be required,” Dickson said in a statement on Monday. The FAA, he revealed, is currently reviewing around 450 cases and has initiated action in at least 20 cases.

Last week, the FAA said it was pursuing a $14,500 civil penalty against a jetBlue passenger who refused to wear a face mask and drank his own alcohol onboard a December 23, 2020 flight to the Dominican Republic.

An anti-masker who assaulted a Delta Air Lines flight attendant on a flight from Miami to Atlanta was recently slapped with a $27,500 civil penalty and in two other cases, offenders were hit with fines of $15,000 and $7,000 respectively.

The maximum civil penalty that the FAA can issue is $35,000.

The zero tolerance policy was set to expire at the end of March but lawmakers had urged Dickson to extend the hard-line enforcement approach for the foreseeable future.

The FAA has previously pointed out that it doesn’t have the power to add disruptive passengers to a federal ‘no-fly’ list. Since the start of the pandemic, Delta Air Lines has added nearly 1,000 anti-masker passengers to its no-fly list alone for mask non-compliance issues.

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