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FAA’s zero-tolerance policy is working - unruly passenger incidents down 50%

Jan. 17, 2022
3 min read
FAA’s zero-tolerance policy is working - unruly passenger incidents down 50%
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We’re three weeks into 2022 and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has already tallied 76 unruly passenger reports, 43 of which were related to masks.

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(Photo courtesy of FAA)

These numbers are as of Jan. 11. And we’re not sure if they include last Tuesday’s headline-grabbing incident during which a passenger entered an open cockpit door and caused damage to an American Airlines plane getting ready to depart Honduras.

Unruly passenger incidents on airplanes are clearly continuing into the new year.

But as we mark the one-year anniversary of the FAA’s introduction of its zero-tolerance policy for unruly passenger behavior on airplanes, the number of incidents is at least trending down.

Related: FAA reaches $1 million benchmark in fines issued to unruly passengers

FAA’s data marks 2021 as the worst year on record in terms of unruly passenger behavior. Last year the FAA logged 5,981 unruly passenger reports, including 4,290 mask-related incidents. In response to a spike in incidents early in the year, the FAA introduced its Zero-Tolerance policy on Jan. 13, 2021.

(Image courtesy of the FAA)

The FAA said at the time that rather than addressing unruly passenger incidents with its usual methods, which ranged from “warnings and counseling to civil penalties,” it would instead “pursue legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates or interferes with airline crew members.”

On Feb. 26, 2021, the FAA proposed a hefty fine against an unruly passenger who had allegedly interfered with and assaulted a flight attendant. Around the same time, airlines began sharing the number of passengers they were banning for being unruly and refusing to wear masks. In some cases, those airline bans are set to expire when the government’s mask mandate is lifted. (The mask mandate is currently in force until March 18.) In others, the ban is for life.

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Lo and behold, the number of unruly passenger incidents began to dip lower in the first quarter of 2021, with numbers down around 50% since the FAA’s policy began being enforced.

In addition to levying – and publicizing – hefty fines for unruly passengers, the FAA’s Zero Tolerance campaign includes airport signage, social media memes, and a series of public service announcements and videos, one of which features kids instructing adults on how to behave on airplanes.

While unruly passenger reports are still hovering at about 50% below the worst of 2021, they are still quite high. At the peak in 2021, the FAA was reporting more than a dozen unruly passenger incidents per 10,000 flights. For the first full week of January, the unruly passenger rate was 4.9 incidents per 10,000 flights. And when “unruly” behavior includes serious physical assaults on flight attendants and other passengers, any incidents are unacceptable.

Aviation security expert Jeff Price thinks the numbers are going in the right direction. “I think publicity of people getting large fines and more criminal charges and jail time are responsible for some of the downturn,” Price told TPG. “People are learning that flying isn’t a right and that there are consequences for their actions on board.”

Featured image by (Photo courtesy of FAA)
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.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $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
    Excellent/Good

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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Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • 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