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FAA proposes its two-largest ever fines against unruly passengers

April 08, 2022
3 min read
FAA proposes its two-largest ever fines against unruly passengers
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The Federal Aviation Administration proposed two new fines against passengers for two separate incidents last July.

The two fines, announced Friday, are the largest the agency says it has ever assessed for alleged unruly behavior.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced the fines on Friday's episode of ABC's "The View."

“If you are on an airplane, don’t be a jerk and don’t endanger the flight crews and fellow passengers," Buttigieg said. "If you do, you will be fined by the FAA."

In the first incident, on July 7, 2021, the FAA alleges that a passenger on an American Airlines flight between Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) pushed a flight attendant who was trying to assist her and tried to open the cabin door. As two flight attendants attempted to restrain her, she allegedly hit one of them on the head. Once restrained, the FAA alleges that this passenger spat at, headbutted, and attempted to kick crewmembers and other passengers. The FAA is proposing a fine of $81,950 for this passenger.

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The second incident, on July 16, 2021, involves a passenger flying aboard a Delta Air Lines flight from Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas (LAS) to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). This passenger allegedly tried to hug and kiss her seatmate and then tried to exit the plane while in flight, and then returned to her seat, where she bit another passenger. The FAA is proposing a $77,272 fine for this passenger.

These types of incidents are down significantly from their peak in early 2021, but "more work remains," the FAA said in a press release announcing the fines. The FAA has already proposed more than $2 million in fines since the beginning of this year. Last year, Attorney General Merrick Garland made the prosecution of these incidents a priority for the Department of Justice. Federal prosecution carries significantly more weight than the civil penalties assessed by the FAA.

Air rage: Could a federal ‘no-fly list’ for unruly passengers actually happen?

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FAA unruly passenger incidents are declining. (Courtesy of the FAA)

Despite the decrease in unruly cases, flight attendants still say they feel threatened by unruly passengers, said Julie Hedrick, the president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union representing American Airlines flight attendants.

More: US Justice Department cracking down on unruly air passengers

"Flight Attendants continue to face physical and verbal abuse, and we cannot sit by and allow these offenders to commit these dangerous acts from airline to airline," Hedrick said in a statement this week about the introduction of federal legislation that would address the issue. "This behavior must stop. There must be severe consequences for injuring flight attendants."

That bill, the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act, would create a federal "no-fly" list for unruly passengers, something that advocates have called overdue.

"We need the accountability of a federal 'no-fly' list to protect all crewmembers and passengers across the industry," Hedrick said in the statement.

Featured image by Bloomberg via 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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Best for the well-traveled foodie
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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

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    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.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

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  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees