The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed a massive $45,000 civil penalty against an unruly passenger who is alleged to have grabbed a flight attendant by the ankles and then stuck his head up her skirt. The fine makes up part of $500,00 in new civil penalties levied by the FAA against unruly passengers on Thursday.
The passenger has received the civil penalty following an investigation by the FAA into the May 24, 2021, jetBlue flight from New York JFK to Orlando. As well as assaulting a flight attendant, the man is alleged to have thrown objects, including his carry on luggage at other passengers, refused to stay seated and lying on the floor.
The FAA alleges that the man refused to get up from the floor, before grabbing a flight attendant by the ankles and sticking his head up her skirt. “The passenger was placed in flexi-cuffs and the flight made an emergency landing in Richmond,” a statement from the FAA said.
Since the beginning of this year, the FAA has issued more than $1 million in civil penalties against unruly and disruptive passengers. Many of the penalties were imposed because passengers refused to comply with the federal face mask mandate. A significant proportion of incidents also involved passengers assaulting flight attendants.
Since the beginning of this year, the FAA has received nearly 4,000 unruly passenger reports – a huge surge compared to previous years. Around 2,867 reports are connected with passengers refusing to comply with the federal face mask mandate.
Despite the FAA’s zero-tolerance campaign against unruly passenger behavior, stiff fines have done little to stem the tide in incidents and airlines will be bracing themselves for months more of similar behavior. Earlier this week, the Biden administration decided to extend the mask mandate into January 2022.
In another incident aboard a jetBlue plane, flight attendants resorted to arming themselves with ice mallets to protect themselves against a violent passenger who was seen snorting cocaine from a bag and threatening other passengers.
The incident started as non-compliance with the federal face mask mandate and ended with the flight making an emergency diversion so that the passenger could be removed by law enforcement. The passenger has been issued with a $42,000 civil penalty.
“Federal law prohibits interfering with aircraft crew or physically assaulting or threatening to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft,” the FAA said in a statement on Thursday.
Passengers are subject to civil penalties for such misconduct, which can threaten the safety of the flight by disrupting or distracting cabin crew from their safety duties.”
Civil penalties are on top of any criminal charges that unruly passengers face but perpetrators rarely get charged with a criminal complaint. The lack of criminal prosecutions against unruly passengers led the FAA to recently plead with airport law enforcement organizations to arrest more unruly passengers.
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.