FAA doles out $124,500 more in fines as it continues unruly flyer crackdown

Jun 22, 2021

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect the details of the most recent fines proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration. 

The FAA announced its latest round of fines against disruptive passengers on Tuesday, June 22, adding nearly $124,500 to the sum that it has already proposed in fine on unruly travelers over recent months.

A total of eight passengers were fined in the latest round.

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The highest individual fine of the latest round, $22,000, was proposed against a passenger who allegedly refused to wear a mask, walked around the cabin despite flight attendant instructions to be seated, and drank alcohol that he brought on board himself, which is against FAA regulations. The Feb. 15 flight was from Denver to Gypsum, Colorado, and was operated by SkyWest Airlines on behalf of United.

Another passenger was fined $21,000 after a Feb. 22 flight on Southwest from Dallas to Albuquerque. That passenger allegedly also refused to wear his mask, continuously taking it off, eventually leading the captain to return the plane to the gate in Dallas shortly after it pushed back. The FAA said that the passenger assaulted a customer service supervisor who boarded the plane, and was consequently detained by police.

Bad inflight behavior: Don’t be a jerk on a flight; there are no more second chances this summer

In recent months, the FAA has announced hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines against disruptive passengers, although that may only be the tip of the iceberg. The agency said Monday that has received more than 3,000 reports of unruly passengers from U.S. airlines. So far, enforcement action has been taken against at least 30 so far this year, with the cumulative fines soaring into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Passengers have 30 days to respond to the FAA fines, which are considered a civil penalty. The response can involve an appeal, but there is no guarantee of the fine being changed.

The fines come a week after the FAA issued a record-breaking fine — $52,500 — against a passenger, and several months after the FAA said it would continue to crack down on disruptive behavior aboard planes. Numerous incidents have involved passengers drinking their own alcohol or refusing to wear masks on board flights — although new CDC guidance allows for relaxed mask use among fully vaccinated people, masks are still required on public transportation until at least September.

More: Masks still required during air travel as CDC loosens indoor mask guidelines for fully vaccinated people

The recent fines have been highly publicized actions taken under a zero-tolerance policy that the FAA implemented in January following numerous disruptive incidents on flights surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building.

Under the zero-tolerance policy, the FAA said it will pursue legal enforcement against anyone involved with an “unruly passenger” incident on a flight. Normally, the FAA uses discretion to choose from among several approaches, including formal warnings and counseling.

Sara Nelson, head of the Association of Flight Attendants, praised the FAA’s actions.

“Wear a mask. It’s required. Period. The freedom of flight depends on all of us following the rules and treating others with respect,” Nelson said. “Flight Attendants are charged with the safety, health, and security of everyone in the cabin. Our instructions to the traveling public keep everyone safe. Listen up and do your part. The consequences are steep if you do not and the FAA isn’t playing around on this.”

Featured image by Chalabala/Getty Images.

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