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The FAA's 'zero-tolerance' unruly passenger policy is here to stay

April 20, 2022
3 min read
Line for TSA PreCheck
The FAA's 'zero-tolerance' unruly passenger policy is here to stay
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The mask mandate might be gone (at least for now), but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will continue its zero-tolerance enforcement policy on unruly passengers.

That policy was first implemented in January 2021 in response to an uptick in violent incidents on aircraft. It involves the agency skipping warning letters and counseling after a violent incident — and heading straight to fines. As part of the policy, those fined by the FAA will also lose their enrollment in TSA PreCheck.

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The FAA has proposed over $2 million in fines since the beginning of this year. It recently proposed its two largest-ever fines for two separate incidents last July.

“Behaving dangerously on a plane will cost you; that’s a promise,” acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said in a statement. “Unsafe behavior simply does not fly and keeping our zero tolerance policy will help us continue making progress to prevent and punish this behavior.”

The FAA credits the policy with a 60% reduction in violent onboard incidents. It says that 80 incidents have been referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for criminal review and possible prosecution.

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The agency's announcement comes after mask mandates were lifted following a ruling by a federal judge on Monday.

Many flight attendants celebrated the end of the mandates, which they felt helped fuel a spike in violent incidents onboard aircraft.

"Flight attendants not only experienced this pandemic uniquely but we were forced to endure it for hours on end during flights and juggle the politics of who we had to police to comply," a flight attendant for a major U.S. carrier told TPG after the mandated had ended.

More: Punch a flight attendant? Lose TSA PreCheck

Major flight attendant unions, while supportive of the FAA's "zero-tolerance" policy, have called for more, and have thrown their support behind the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act, which would create a federal “no-fly” list for unruly passengers. It's a step that advocates have called overdue.

"More needs to be done," Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said in a statement earlier this month. "Right now, a passenger can be fined or convicted, and may be banned on an individual airline – but that does not prevent this violent offender from flying another airline."

Featured image by (Photo by George Frey/Bloomberg/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
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

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
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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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    $250
  • 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.

    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
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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.
  • 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