U.S. airlines have reported over 1,300 unruly passenger incidents to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) since February, the agency said on Monday as per a report by Reuters. The FAA would ordinarily deal with just 100 to 150 such reports in any given year but has embarked on a zero-tolerance campaign brought about by disruptive anti-maskers and Trump supporters.
Of the 1,300 reports submitted to the FAA, the agency has so far identified around 260 incidents that will require enforcement action. Under the FAA’s zero-tolerance approach, perpetrators face a maximum civil penalty of $35,000 on top of any criminal sanction that might be brought against rule breakers.
The FAA said it had so far started enforcement action in 20 cases and was preparing to initiate action in a number of other cases. In March, the FAA proposed a $14,500 civil penalty for a jetBlue passenger who refused to wear a face mask and drank his own alcohol.
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.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson first announced the ‘first strike and you’re out policy’ in December 2020 following several high profile incidents in which Trump supporters disrupted flights to and from Washington DC.
The policy also followed a number of disputes over face masks before a federal face mask mandate came into force.
Dickson said in March that the policy would be extended indefinitely and the agency confirmed last week that the zero-tolerance policy would be enforced until the federal mask mandate had elapsed at the earliest. The Biden administration has extended the mask mandate through to September 13.
On Monday, Dickson said: “We will not tolerate interfering with a flight crew and the performance of their safety duties. Period.”
His comments came just hours after a suspect appeared in a New York court via video link accused of punching a flight attendant over trash collection on a flight from Miami.
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.