Skip to content

FAA fines passenger a record $52,500 as crackdown on disruptive passengers continues

May 17, 2021
4 min read
FAA fines passenger a record $52,500 as crackdown on disruptive passengers continues
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the highest penalty to date against an unruly passenger as part of its zero-tolerance crackdown.

The agency said on Monday that it had issued a civil fine of $52,500 against a passenger on a December 23, 2020 Delta flight from Honolulu (HNL) to Seattle (SEA).

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!

According to the agency, the passenger allegedly tried to open the cockpit door, ignored crewmember instructions, and hit a flight attendant in the face, knocking him over and threatening him. Flight attendants and another passenger eventually managed to subdue the violent passenger, restraining him with a set of plastic handcuffs. However, the passenger was able to wriggle out of the handcuffs and hit the same flight attendant again.

When the flight landed, the passenger was arrested, the FAA said.

Three passengers on different flights were also fined for disruptive behavior aboard flights, the agency said Monday.

One was fined $27,000 after allegedly making a scene and forcing a Southwest flight from Phoenix (PHX) to Chicago Midway (MDW) to divert to Oklahoma City (OKC). The FAA says that the passenger beat his hands on the seat in front of him, and yelled that he was going to kill someone and had a bomb. Police arrested the man once the plane landed.

The other two fines were for more "routine" unruly behavior.

One passenger on a February 5 JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Las Vegas (LAS) was fined $18,500 after allegedly drinking alcohol that he brought on board himself, despite multiple warnings from flight attendants that it was illegal. He also refused to wear his mask properly, the FAA said.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

The last passenger was fined $9,000 after allegedly refusing to wear a mask and shouting profanities at flight attendants on a February 15 Frontier Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale to Knoxville, Tennessee (TYS).

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

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 says that since February, it has received more than 1,300 reports of unruly passengers from U.S. airlines. So far, 370 of those cases have been flagged as potential violations, with enforcement action taken against 27 to date.

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 two weeks after the FAA issued the previous record fine — $32,750 — 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.

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.

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.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
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
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
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

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our 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
Best card for premium perks while traveling
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
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    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

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

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 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our 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