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FAA Increases Unruly Passenger Fines to $35,000, Threatens Legal Actions

FAA Increases Unruly Passenger Fines to $35,000, Threatens Legal Actions
Joe Cortez

In light of a number of incidents with passengers disrupting flights, the Federal Aviation Administration is taking a “Zero Tolerance” stance. The agency will levy fines up to $35,000 to passengers who “interfere with, physically assault, or threaten to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft.”

Those planning to cause trouble on an aircraft over face mask policies, politics, or for any other reason could now face fines up to $35,000, along with potential jail time. In a press release, Federal Aviation Administration administrator Steve Dickson announced a new rule aimed at stopping aggressive or threatening behavior aboard flights.

FAA “Will Pursue Legal Enforcement Action” Against Badly Behaving Passengers

The new rule is designed to prevent passengers from behaving poorly aboard aircraft. In the days immediately after the attack on the U.S. Capitol Building, several videos went viral online showing demonstrators acting unruly aboard flights, ranging from loud chanting to rallying against the use of face coverings.

Although the FAA has only pursued over 1,300 cases against flyers, the escalating incidents gives the group reason to increase fines. Citing a recent case where two Allegiant Air flyers were handed penalties for fighting with flight attendants over face covering rules, the agency says the new regulations are warranted.

“Historically, the agency has addressed unruly-passenger incidents using a variety of methods ranging from warnings and counseling to civil penalties,” the FAA statement reads. “Effective immediately, however, the FAA will not address these cases with warnings or counseling. The agency will pursue legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members.”

Under the rule, the FAA will levy fines of up to $35,000 on passengers who “interfere with, physically assault, or threaten to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft.” The agency will also refer incidents to the Department of Justice for prosecution and imprisonment.

While the FAA acknowledges that they do not “have regulatory authority over aviation security or no-fly lists,” they work closely with their law enforcement and national security partners on maintaining safe skies. The policies will remain in effect until March 31, 2021.

FAA Rules Come as Airports Increase Security Ahead of Inauguration

The move comes ahead of the Inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden, just as airports are ramping up security to deal with potential aggravators. CNBC reports the Washington Metro Airports Authority, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Los Angeles World Airports are all adding measures to ensure safe travels in the coming weeks.

View Comments (18)

18 Comments

  1. FlyingNone

    January 13, 2021 at 6:26 pm

    It’s about time. Who of us isn’t sick of hearing and reading about unruly tantrum-throwing passengers who think the world revolves around them. Adults who are CIVILIZED act accordingly and responsibly.

  2. vargha

    January 14, 2021 at 4:49 am

    Geez, why not life in prison? I mean $35K fines? That seems like a punishment that fits the crime.

    Perhaps instead of air marshals, flights can have air judges who hand out and execute punishment on the spot such as onboard floggings.

  3. MRM

    January 14, 2021 at 5:24 am

    It will only work if you post names/home cities when idiots actually get charged. No more anonymity – pull back the covers and expose these wonderful folks to the whole entire world – five them the platform they desire.

  4. azmojo

    January 14, 2021 at 7:01 am

    Good journalism. What was the old fine amount?

  5. oh912flyer

    January 14, 2021 at 7:09 am

    I get what they’re trying to do but this is more about politics. Chanting on a plane isn’t unheard of — I’ve been on a plane with a bunch of singing fans coming back from a sporting event and no one bats an eyelid. This seems to be more about flight crew not approving of what’s being chanted. I understand, but it needs to be consistent. Right now, it isn’t.

  6. M. Flynn

    January 14, 2021 at 8:45 am

    It’s about time action is taken against these fools!

  7. Gizzabreak

    January 14, 2021 at 9:59 am

    @ Vargha … sounds like a good idea, might get some ‘discussion’ about being a touch excessive. Perhaps the ‘onboard’ incidents could be minimised BEFORE they occur by having the social media columns monitored and compiling a ‘no fly’ list of dissenters and potential disrupters … a bit ‘George Orwell 1984’ (ish) but would probably be applauded by 99% of passengers.

  8. MiscMel70

    January 14, 2021 at 10:40 am

    Good. Throw them off, make their faces public (so their employers can see how volatile they are when they don’t get their way), then fine and jail them. It will only stop when people realize there are consequences for their behavior, especially towards people who are just doing their job of getting us safely from one location to another.

    No one should be forced to wear a mask or silenced. And if a private entity sets these rules and anyone doesn’t agree, they are MORE than welcome to take their business elsewhere. There are plenty of other businesses who will allow it. Why do folks make this so hard? Don’t spend your money with businesses that don’t agree with your stance.

    @oh912flyer it’s because, for the most part, chanting sports team fans, when the chanters are not drunk lol, are not threatening. People chanting threats to over throw democracy is different and it’s weird that you don’t know the difference. Sort of like protesting at the Capitol is fine….even expected in our democracy…until you break in past government police officers telling you to stop with people in tactical gear and long range radios and zip ties and weapons…walking the scared halls of congress “looking” for our law makers. “Looking” for them to do what with exactly? Talk? Talk zip tied up perhaps? If so, why the tactical gear?

    A lot of us, including the FAA thank goodness, understand the psychology of “mob mentality”. A plane full of people chanting anything, particularly something violent, can cause the most level headed, kind, law abiding person to act in a way even that person never anticipated.

  9. deadmoneywalking

    January 14, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    @oh912flyer

    Of course it’s politics. One government agency is increasing the penalties, without the approval of Congress, because they don’t like the politics of recent incidents. There is no need for tougher action when a left wing celebrity acts up on an aeroplane.

  10. JG_Aus

    January 14, 2021 at 4:19 pm

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of folks. Throw them off the planes, fine them and make certain that their home town papers carry coverage in first 2-4 pages including names and actions. See how their employers feel about their actions. This isn’t about freedom of speech or expression. Wearing a mask is a public health issue – they work – just shut up and put it on. And if you can’t keep your disruptive politics (or other anti-social behavior) under control, then expect to pay a fine and face incarceration. Most people learned that actions have consequences by the time they were five.

  11. Bluesman62

    January 14, 2021 at 4:48 pm

    Unruly behavior on flights has been increasing for years, as the entitled, DYKWIA mentality has become more pervasive. We’ve all seen the videos. But it’s the same regardless of your political views or “celebrity” status: flout the rules, behave like an obnoxious jerk, and expect to be removed from the flight/ejected from the store or otherwise pay the consequences. Just because someone has a Grammy nomination or espouses a political persuasion does not make their disruptive behavior any less objectionable: you’re still just a jerk who doesn’t know how to behave in public.

  12. SamirD

    January 14, 2021 at 11:01 pm

    I’m never one to disagree with better law enforcement–it just better be the same enforcement for all or we’re stepping right into the third world playbook.

    MiscMel70 said it all very well. Violence against a private company isn’t going to get you what you want. These millennial style tantrums should have been stopped long ago with law enforcement. People will continue to press the envelope if you let them slip by…just like the bullies they are.

  13. JohnWM

    January 15, 2021 at 10:32 am

    So many Trumpsters here nowadays. My, my.

  14. Centurion

    January 15, 2021 at 4:26 pm

    I can not longer demand the steward pop a bottle of champagne before takeoff! I guess I will need to book the QE2 and set sail in the future. Life is tough but I am determined to survive

  15. mvoight

    January 19, 2021 at 10:32 am

    I do not want to hear constant chanting or singing on a plane, no matter who it is for.
    It might be acceptable behavior for a charter flight were the people onboard support the team, politician, or whatever they are chanting for, but on a scheduled flight the majority or the vocal minority should not be disruptive to other passengers

  16. MRM

    January 19, 2021 at 11:52 am

    JohnWM: What a lazy take = namecalling?

    People have been misbehaving for decades on plane, and it’s only got worse. Sorry, but bad behavior was going on well before 2016. If you want to believe that this is only about chanting/cheering political tripe – then that says more about you and your inability to look beyond the low-hanging fruit in your analysis rather than understand the full issue.

  17. bdfennelly

    January 19, 2021 at 12:31 pm

    Lifetime listing on the no fly list for all airlines.

  18. zombietooth

    January 21, 2021 at 11:05 am

    Remember Busta Rhymes threatening a woman (and those who defended her) on a flight to London with bodily harm, forcing her to remove her bags from the overhead above her seat? Note that Mr. Rhymes had 4 carryons. He later quoted the bible in his defense (with no apology) implying he was a victim of racism. See here (it’s a long thread, but includes statements from 3 direct witnesses):

    https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/british-airways-executive-club/1980767-29-july-19-ba112-jfk-lhr-incident-f-cabin.html

    At the time, I thought he should be banned for life, yet nothing happened.

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