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FAA says it's cracking down on violent, unruly passengers

Jan. 13, 2021
3 min read
FAA says it's cracking down on violent, unruly passengers
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Unruly passengers have been put on notice.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday it would take a tougher stance against unruly and violent passengers on U.S. flights.

The agency said it was making the move following “a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior.”

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“These incidents have stemmed both from passengers’ refusals to wear masks and from recent violence at the U.S. Capitol,” the agency added in a statement.

The change in tone comes as airline crews have found themselves on the frontlines, both in enforcing mask policies and in keeping the peace amid a volatile political climate.

Mask-wearing has been an ongoing issue for crews. But, more recently, there have been a number of reports detailing the raucous behavior of passengers on several flights carrying Trump supporters to and from a Jan. 6 rally that ultimately led to violence at the U.S. Capitol.

Under a new policy that will begin March 30, the FAA will no longer warn passengers involved in inflight incidents. Instead, the agency will move directly toward “legal enforcement action” against “any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members.”

More: No-fly lists, security crackdown: Chaos in DC leads to big changes in travel

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“Flying is the safest mode of transportation and I signed this order to keep it that way,” FAA Administrator Dickson said.

Typically, the FAA and other government regulators announce major changes far in advance of implementation, offering the public time to comment on the rule changes. But while March 30 may seem far off, the timeline is relatively short for such a new mandate.

The new policy is likely to be welcome by airline crews, who are often left to sort out such conflicts when they arise inflight.

Unruly passengers have long been a problem, with alcohol frequently cited as a cause. But the past year has added mask-wearing and — now — politics to the mix.

In the absence of a federal policy, airlines have been left to institute their own rules for wearing masks on their flights. While most airline policies are now consistent, some passengers have purposefully tested the policies while traveling. Politics emerged as a new flashpoint earlier this month, when conflicts on several Washington flights showed tense moments on planes and went viral on social media.

The incidents were enough to prompt the chief of nation's largest flight attendants union to speak out.

“It’s one thing to have one or two bad actors on a plane… [but] in the past two, three days it’s a whole different thing,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said to Skift on Monday after numerous reports of inflight incidents. “They’ve taken over the entire tone on the plane. How do you deal with that at 30,000 feet?”

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023