FAA proposes hefty fines for unruly plane passengers

by Ryan

Four airline passengers could face hefty fines for their “unruly” and “disruptive” behavior toward flight staff, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The agency is proposing civil penalties of up to $15,500 against passengers accused of “interfering with flight attendants who instructed them to obey cabin crew instructions and various federal regulations,” the FAA announced Monday.

The fines are part of the administration’s zero-tolerance policy for passengers who cause disturbances on flights.

“Federal law prohibits interfering with aircraft crew or physically assaulting or threatening to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft,” officials said in a news release. “Passengers are subject to civil penalties for such misconduct, which can threaten the safety of the flight by disrupting or distracting cabin crew from their safety duties.”

The incidents in question occurred in February on four separate flights and involved three airlines: JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

A passenger allegedly had to be asked 10 times to wear his face mask properly and ignored the flight crew’s repeated requests to do so on a JetBlue flight out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Feb. 5, according to the news release

The man was also seen guzzling mini bottles of alcohol that he allegedly brought with him on the flight — which is against FAA regulations.

In accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help curb the spread of COVID-19, federal law requires passengers to wear a face mask that covers their nose and mouth when traveling on planes, buses and other public transportation within or into the U.S. Masks are also required at most transportation hubs, including airports.

In a similar incident, the FAA says a passenger on a JetBlue flight bound for Mexico date on Feb. 27 also refused to wear her mask and, at one point, “inserted her finger into her nose” when a crew member asked her to put on a face covering. The woman proceeded to yell and use obscenities, the FAA says, after being given a warning.

Her “disruptive” display forced the pilot to divert the flight to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

On Feb. 3, a passenger on an Alaska Airlines flight out of Boise headed to California triggered the airplane lavatory’s smoke alarm system when he started smoking an e-cigarette in the restroom, administration officials said. The man continued moving around the cabin without a face mask and ignored requests to wear one.

A similar disturbance was reported on a Southwest Airlines flight out of Fort Myers, Florida, on Feb. 3 when a passenger refused to comply with the flight crew’s repeated requests to wear her face mask, the FAA said.

None of the passengers in the February incidents were publicly identified by the FAA in the news release per the administration’s policy.

Since Jan. 1, the FAA said it has received nearly 3,000 reports of passengers behaving badly; 2.300 involved face mask violations, the administration said.

The proposed fines range from $7,500 to $15,500, and passengers have 30 days to respond after receiving an enforcement letter from the FAA.

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