Wow: FAA Fines For Unruly US Passengers Top $1 Million

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has today proposed over $500,000 in fines against 34 passengers, taking its total for the year to over $1 million. In a year that has seen many high-profile onboard incidents, the FAA has cracked down heavily on unruly passengers since implementing its “zero tolerance” policy.

American Airlines Getty
FAA proposed fines have topped $1 million for this year. Photo: Getty Images

FAA announces $531,000 fines for 34 passengers

The FAA has proposed fines amounting to over $531,000 for 34 passengers accused of unruly behavior onboard flights. Should the proposed fines be maintained, it would take the FAA’s total proposed fines for 2021 over the $1 million mark.

The agency has received a total of 3,889 reports of disruptive passengers this year. Of these reports, 2,867 were related to the U.S. federal mask mandate. The Transportation Security Administration recently extended the federal mask mandate to January 18th, 2022.

JetBlue A321
The FAA has received almost 3,900 reports of disruptive passengers this year alone. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Of the latest 34 cases incurring fines, 22 were related to non-compliance with the mask mandate. Eight cases involved passengers drinking alcohol not served by the airline. Several others involved vaping, which is banned on flights.

Some of the latest fines include:

  • $45,000 against a JetBlue passenger flying from New York to Orlando on May 24th. The passenger threw his luggage at other travelers, refused to stay in his seat, and even grabbed a flight attendant’s ankles before looking up her skirt.
  • $42,000 against a JetBlue passenger flying from New York to San Francisco on May 16th. The passenger refused to wear a mask, made ‘stabbing gestures’ at other travelers, and appeared to snort cocaine from a small plastic bag.
  • $30,000 against a Frontier Airlines passenger flying from Atlanta to New York on January 3rd. The passenger attempted to force entry onto the flight deck, assaulting two crew members and making death threats.
  • $16,700 against an Allegiant Air passenger involving incidents on two separate flights. On January 21st, the woman is accused of smoking in the plane’s lavatory. On the return journey on January 24th, the passenger allegedly assaulted both crew and fellow passengers.
  • $10,500 against an Allegiant Air passenger flying from Fort Lauderdale to Covington. The man refused to comply with the mask mandate before urinating on the lavatory floor, which leaked into the galley area.

The New York – San Francisco incident on May 16th was explained to passengers by one of the cabin crew in the video below.

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The FAA is overstreched with cases

Given the sheer number of reports the FAA receives, it is having trouble pursuing each incident. After the FAA proposes a fine, each defendant has 30 days to respond. By mid-July, the FAA said it had resolved just seven cases.

Frontier A320neo
The FAA has implemented a far tougher approach to unruly passengers this year. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

In January, the FAA announced a shift in its strategy towards a “zero tolerance” policy. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in March that this zero tolerance approach would remain indefinitely.

Flight attendants struggle with unruly passengers

Flight attendants themselves have also been overstretched in their ability to deal with aggressive passengers. Last week, a high-profile incident on an American Airlines flight ended with a 13-year-old boy duct-taped to his seat by the crew. After an argument with his mother, the teenager repeatedly attempted to kick out the aircraft’s windows.

American B777
Passenger restraining tactics have come under increased scrutiny this month. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

In July, a first-class passenger was duct-taped to her seat after attacking American Airlines cabin crew and trying to force the plane door open. The FAA hopes its strict approach to disruptive passengers, in the form of hefty fines, will discourage such incidents going forward.

Have you experienced any incidents onboard flights this year? Why do you think we are seeing an uptick in unruly passengers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.