FAA Fines Against Unruly Passengers Reach $1 Million

Liz Carey

Washington, D.C. (WorkersCompensation.com) – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration issued its latest round of proposed civil penalties for unruly passengers, bring the total penalties proposed for 2021 to more than $1 million.

In August, the FAA levied another $531,545 in proposed penalties against 34 passengers accused of everything from throwing things at passengers and flight crew members to putting their head up a flight attendants skirt to assaulting and threatening to kill flight attendants for not deplaning quickly enough.

The latest round of penalties are part of the FAA’s Zero Tolerance policy toward unruly passengers. Since Jan. 1, 2021, the FAA has received nearly 3,900 reports of unruly behavior by passengers, including 2,867 reports of passengers refusing to comply with a federal mandate making mask wearing while onboard a plane mandatory.

Earlier this summer, the FAA sent a letter to airports across the country asking for help in controlling unruly passengers. The FAA asked the airports to coordinate more closely with local law enforcement to prosecute more serious crimes by unruly passengers, and to request their vendors to not serve alcohol in “to go” cups, preventing passengers from bringing alcohol aboard the aircraft.

Among the cases included in the $1 million tally are:

  • $45,000 for a passenger on a May 24 jetBlue Airways flight from New York to Orlando, who allegedly threw objects, including his carry-on luggage, at other passengers, refused to stay seated, laid down on the floor in the aisle, refusing to get up and then grabbed a flight attendant by the ankles and put his head up her skirt. The passenger was placed in flexi-cuffs and the flight made an emergency landing in Richmond, Virginia.
  • $30,000 for a passenger on a Jan. 3 Frontier Airlines flight from Atlanta to New York who allegedly attempted to gain entry to the flight deck while deplaning. When they were blocked from exiting, they physically assaulted two flight attendants, threatening to kill one of them, and demanded they open the door. The passenger was met by law enforcement after exiting the plane.
  • $19,000 for a passenger on a Feb. 11 American Airlines flight from Miami to Nashville who ignored the mask mandate and allegedly pushed a flight attendant into another passenger.
  • $15,000 for a passenger on a May 12 jetBlue Airways flight from Queens to Kingston, Jamaica, who allegedly hit a flight attendant in the nose. The passenger said the flight attendant tried to kiss him and stole his money and that he would hit her again if he saw her. The flight returned to Queens.
  • $25,000 for a passenger on a March 11 Frontier Airlines flight from Orlando to Providence, R.I. who allegedly kicked the aircraft bulkhead, screamed obscenities, locked herself in the bathroom for 30 minutes, yelled obscenities at the flight attendant after they told her she must return to her seat, threw corn nuts at other passengers and shoved both of her middle fingers in the faces of flight attendants. Law enforcement was called to remove her from the flight.

Threats against flight attendants was a common theme cited by the FAA in many other proposed penalties. On Feb. 7, after flight attendants asked a passenger to stop vaping in the cabin, the passenger and his father yelled at the flight attendants. The passenger now faces a $10,315 proposed penalty for saying to the flight attendants “I hope this plane [expletive] crashes” when he was escorted off the flight. His father now faces a $9,000 proposed penalty after yelling at the flight attendant “imagine all of you in body bags” as he was being escorted off the plane.

In an incident on Jan. 2, a passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight from Orlando to Kansas City assaulted the passengers around him because they would not change seats to accommodate his travel companion. The passenger told others that his companion would need to bail him out of jail for the physically violent crimes he was getting ready to commit. The pilot returned to the gate where the passenger was met by law enforcement and later banned from flying with Southwest in the future. The FAA proposed he pay a $32,000 penalty.

In a recent survey from the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA Union, 85 percent of the 5,000 flight attendants they surveyed said they had dealt with unruly passengers in the first half of 2021. More than half (58 percent) reported having been involved in at least five incidents this year, and one in five (17 percent) reported experiencing at least one physical incident.

And while measure are in place to report incidents of unruly passengers, more than two thirds of the flight attendants surveyed (71 percent) said no one followed up with them after they filed their incident reports. Most flight attendants answered the survey that they didn’t feel their employers were doing enough to address the rise in unruly passengers.

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