Another FAA Smackdown: More Fines For Misbehaving Passengers

The United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has just proposed another round of fines for poorly behaved airline passengers. Eight new airline passengers are in the regulator’s sights, with proposed fines ranging from US$9,000 to $22,000.

The FAA has just announced another round of proposed fines following more bad passenger behavior. Photo” Don Wilson/Sea-Tac Airport

The second round of FAA fines in a week

Only a week ago, the FAA shamed four passengers with $43,800 in fines relating to misconduct that occurred in February. As part of its campaign to crack down on bad inflight behavior, on Tuesday the FAA added to the growing rollcall. The regulator says the latest offenses range from assaulting flight crew, drinking alcohol brought aboard the plane, and refusing to wear facemasks.

In one of the latest cases, a Southwest Airlines passenger flying to Albuquerque (ABQ) on February 22 repeatedly refused to wear a face mask before boarding and after boarding, causing the aircraft to return to the gate. A Southwest Airlines supervisor then boarded the flight to escort the male passenger off the flight. He threw his mask at the supervisor, hit him on the jaw, and continued to refuse the wear the face mask. Police subsequently intervened. The FAA wants to fine the man $21,000.

In another instance, a passenger on a SkyWest Airlines flight from Phoenix (PHX) to Hermosillo (HMO) became agitated when the plane returned to Phoenix due to bad weather. The passenger began hitting the ceiling of the aircraft. When a flight attendant intervened, the passenger demanded crew names and employee numbers.

He also began filming a female flight attendant, forcing her to switch workstations. Other passengers were put on standby to assist if the passenger’s behavior deteriorated further. It did, but not until the flight landed. The passenger then struck a neighboring passenger. Police were called. The FAA wants to fine this gentleman $19,000.

In one example of bad behavior, a creepy Skywest passenger began filming a female flight attendant. Photo: Skywest Airlines

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Female Endeavor Airlines passenger faces a $14,000 fine

Simple Flying searched the list of the eight latest miscreants for a badly behaved female passenger in the interests of equal opportunity. But only one female passenger made the list of FAA shame. On an Endeavor Airlines flight to Portland (PWM), a female passenger was also not abiding by face mask rules. Further, while the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign was illuminated, she unbuckled and stood up. The pilots alerted the police, who met the plane on arrival. The FAA wants to fine this lady $14,000.

The FAA doesn’t name passengers they propose fining. But the regulator says it is adopting a zero-tolerance position on bad inflight behavior or failure to obey crew instructions. So far this year, the FAA has proposed $563,800 in fines against unruly passengers. They say they’ve received around 3,100 reports of unruly behavior from airlines. Around 75% of the reports relate to facemasks.

A coalition of ten airline industry groups is calling for tougher action against bad inflight behavior. Photo: Don Wilson/Sea-Tac Airport

Airline industry groups call for criminal prosecutions

A group of ten organizations, ranging from Airlines for America to pilot and flight attendant unions, have written to US Attorney General Merrick Garland asking for criminal instead of civil prosecutions.

In the letter dated June 21, the signatories ask Garland to do more to deter the more “egregious” types of inflight misbehavior.

“The federal government should send a strong and consistent message through criminal enforcement that compliance with federal law and upholding aviation safety are of paramount importance,” the letter says.

The group argues the US Government already has the power to do this. Section 46504 of Title 49 of the US Code prohibits the assault or intimidation of a flight crewmember or flight attendant that interferes with the performance of a crewmember’s duties or lessens the ability of the crewmember to perform those duties. With a maximum penalty of 20 years already in place, the letter suggests a few criminal prosecutions might focus attention on the issue. And no more hiding behind the FAA’s veil of anonymity.

“Making these prosecutions public will put a spotlight on the serious consequences when breaking the law and will act as an effective deterrent against future onboard disruptions.”

What do you think? Would the threat of criminal prosecutions and jail time rein in the spate of bad passenger behavior? Post a comment and let us know.