Following several incidents of politically motivated harassment on aircraft and in airports over the past weeks, the FAA has decided to crack down on unruly passengers. On Wednesday, the agency’s Administrator Steve Dickson signed an order for a “compliance and enforcement program,” which could land offenders with up to 20 years in prison.
Intended to keep air travel safe for everyone
The FAA said the measure was necessary as it had recorded an alarming increase in flight disruptions stemming both from passengers refusing to wear masks and following the recent violence at the US Capitol.
In effect until March 30th, the order removes the usual steps of counseling or warnings for disruptive passengers. Instead, the FAA will move straight to enforcement for anyone who interferes with, physically assaults, or threatens to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft. Penalties include fines of up to $35,000 and jail time of up to 20 years.
“Flying is the safest mode of transportation and I signed this order to keep it that way,” Mr Dickson said in a statement seen by Simple Flying. The FAA Administrator also told Reuters that,
“We’ve seen a disturbing increase in these incidents… We’ll take the strongest possible enforcement action against any passenger who engages in it,” and added that he had briefed airlines on the new policy.
Unruly behavior doesn’t fly! You could be subject to up to $35K in fines or up to 20 years imprisonment for threatening or assaulting a crew member. https://t.co/R6ZunIDuy8 #FlySmart #Travel #airlines
— The FAA ✈️ (@FAANews) January 13, 2021
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Flight attendants’ union applaud decision
Industry representatives welcomed the move towards tougher measures. Sara Nelson, International President for the Association for Flight Attendants-CWA, said in a statement seen by Simple Flying that,
“First strike and you’re out. We applaud FAA Administrator Dickson for taking this clear stand for our safety and security. This will help serve as a deterrent to unruly passengers who had been bucking the rules of aviation safety.”
Concerns of further trouble ahead of inauguration
Following the storming of the US Capitol, where thousands of supporters of Donald Trump demanded that the results of the presidential election be overturned, several carriers said they were taking measures to avoid trouble on flights in and out of Washington DC.
American Airlines suspended the sale of alcohol on board to ensure the safety of passengers and crew. Alaska Airlines banned 14 passengers from ever traveling with them again following what the carrier called unacceptable behavior on a flight from Washington to Seattle on January 7th.
Fears have since been voiced that not enough is being done to prevent further violence during Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20th. Lawmakers from the House Homeland Security Committee and airline union representatives have asked the FBI and TSA that those who participated in last week’s insurrection be put on no-fly lists.
Over the last few months and weeks, videos displaying various forms of combative attitude towards airline crew have become prevalent. In one short snippet from an American Airlines’ flight from Washington to Phoenix, the Captain can be heard threatening to divert the plane to Kansas if passengers did not behave.
“This is the way it’s gonna be… it’s a four and a half hour flight to Phoenix. We’ll put this plane down in the middle of Kansas and dump people off – I don’t care. We will do that if that’s what it takes, so behave, please,” the pilot, who was clearly not having any rowdiness on board his plane, can be heard saying.
— Doctor President-elect Amanda Head (@AmandaHead) January 8, 2021
That anyone would think to threaten the safety of the crew or other passengers on board an aircraft by causing disruption for any reason, is a horrifying notion. Hopefully, the FAA order will help put a stop to such instances and keep flying peaceful and safe for everyone involved until everyone comes to their senses.
What do you think of the FAA’s new order? Let us know in the comments.