FAA Continues Crack Down On Unruly Passengers

The FAA will continue its crack down on unruly passenger onboard flights in the US. Over 500 travelers have been reported for their behavior since December, mostly for mask violations. The FAA and airlines require all passengers to wear masks during the flight, a rule many have been trying to avoid, resulting in bans and removal from the flight.

American Airlines passengers
The Federal Aviation Administration will extend its zero-tolerance policy for unruly airline passengers. Photo: Getty Images


According to CNBC, the FAA will continue its zero-tolerance policy for passengers failing to follow the rules. The rules were set to expire at the end of March but have now been extended for as long as the federal mask mandate remains in place. Unruly behavior includes any passenger actions that fail to follow crew instruction or rules, but it has mainly applied to those refusing to wear masks onboard.

Since late December, the FAA has received over 500 cases of unruly behavior and plans to take action against the offenders. Actions range from fines (which can be in the tens of thousands of dollars) to even jail time in extreme cases.

Boeing 737 MAX, Recertification, FAA
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson has made it clear that the hard-line on enforcing rules will remain for a while. Photo: Getty Images

In a statement about the continuing rules, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said,

“I have decided to extend the FAA’s unruly-passenger zero-tolerance policy as we continue to do everything we can to confront the pandemic. The policy directs our safety inspectors and attorneys to take strong enforcement action against any passenger who disrupts or threatens the safety of a flight, with penalties ranging from fines to jail time. The number of cases we’re seeing is still far too high, and it tells us urgent action continues to be required.”

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests!


Airline employee unions raised safety concerns following the US Capitol riots in early January. Dozens of passengers were subsequently placed on airline bans and reported to the FAA for their conduct.

This prompted the FAA to reiterate its zero-tolerance policy, making it clear that those violating rules would be punished. Considering the physical and health risks to passengers and crew, the move makes perfect sense.

Cabin crew mask
Passengers refusing to follow any crew instructions can lead to offloading, hefty fines, and prison time for the offenders. Photo: Getty Images

For any passenger resorting to violence, the consequences can be severe. Last month, the FAA fined a United passenger $50,000 for assaulting a flight attendant, setting a precedent for its enforcement plans. For those who refuse to wear masks, airlines have proposed penalties of nearly $15,000 for endangering others onboard.

Masks will likely remain a part of the travel experience for nearly another year, if not longer. Cases globally remain high and vaccine rollouts will take months before nearing completion, meaning that masks remain crucial to safety. For now, don’t expect to throw away your masks for at least a while.

Overall, the FAA is trying to make its message loud and clear: you absolutely must follow all airline instructions and rules, with severe penalties if you do not.

What do you think about the FAA’s policy? Should it be stricter in the future? Let us know in the comments!