The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Monday that it has received 2,500 unruly passenger behavior reports from U.S. airlines since January – 76 per cent of which concerned passengers refusing to comply with a federal face mask mandate. The agency would normally deal with just 100 – 150 unruly passenger reports in any given year.
The number of reports continues to balloon despite the FAA enforcing a zero-tolerance policy towards unruly passenger behavior that can result in passengers being slapped with a civil penalty of up to $35,000.
On Monday, the FAA said it was taking enforcement action five more passengers with fines ranging from $9,000 to $15,000. In two cases, the passengers were accused of assaulting flight attendants and three of the incidents occurred aboard jetBlue flights.
The civil penalties announced on Monday are small change, however, when compared to the $52,500 fine proposed by the FAA against a Delta Air Lines passenger who assaulted flight attendants and tried to open the flight deck door on a flight from Honolulu to Seattle last December.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated face mask guidance for fully vaccinated people in most social settings but a federal face mask mandate remains in force on airplanes, in airports and across all other forms of public transport. The mandate is set to expire on September 14 but could be extended.
The FAA’s zero-tolerance policy won’t be revoked until the federal face mask mandate expires.
“Historically, the agency has addressed unruly-passenger incidents using a variety of methods ranging from warnings and counseling to civil penalties,” the FAA explained in a January 13 press release. “However, the FAA will not address these cases with warnings or counseling,” the statement continued.
“The agency will pursue legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members.”
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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.
I am part of the flying public and these people that believe they can act this way is amazing!! It is frightening to those of us that may be unwitting witnesses to it! I thought we had Air Marshalls on flights to assist. Covid pandemic or not is not acceptable behavior anyplace much less on an aircraft! My heart goes out to these flight crews that are also readjusting to being back in the air and back to work doing what they love! They are professionals people not your servants so act accordingly!!! Shame on you and your surly attitudes! I hope they throw away the keys on all 2500 of you so far!!!