The Federal Aviation Administration issued two of its highest fines yet last week to two unruly passengers who threatened, bit, and kicked fellow passengers and flight attendants last year.
The highest fine in FAA history—$81,950—was issued to a woman who disrupted a July 7, 2021 flight from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas to Charlotte, North Carolina:
The $81,950-fine involves a passenger on a July 7, 2021, American Airlines flight from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, to Charlotte, N.C. The FAA alleges the passenger threatened to hurt the flight attendant that offered help to the passenger after she fell into the aisle. The passenger then pushed the flight attendant aside and tried to open the cabin door. Two flight attendants tried to restrain the passenger, but she repeatedly hit one of the flight attendants on the head. After the passenger was restrained in flex cuffs, she spit at, headbutted, bit and tried to kick the crew and other passengers. Law enforcement apprehended her in Charlotte.
The FAA assigned a slightly lower amount of $77,272 to another passenger who “... attempted to hug and kiss the passenger seated next to her; walked to the front of the aircraft to try to exit during flight; refused to return to her seat; and bit another passenger multiple times.”
They seem nice. It won’t surprise you to learn alcohol may have been a factor in both incidents. Both women have the next 30 days to appeal the fines.
Unruly passengers were barely a blip in pre-pandemic days, but with incidents skyrocketing the FAA is implementing a zero tolerance policy with folks who disturb flights. This no-nonsense approach has reduced incidents in 2022 by 60 percent, but at the time of this writing there were still 1,081 unruly passenger reports, with 707 mask-related incidents. Mask requirements have been relaxed in much of the country, but they are still required on flights until at least September.
Fines are the only consequences jerks who act up on flights face. It’s against federal law to interfere with a flight crew and their duties. While the FAA can’t prosecute unruly passengers so do indeed face federal charges stemming from their actions aboard flights. Airlines have also begged the feds to have passengers who misbehave be put on a federal no-fly list. Which this request has been ignored, many airlines are now maintaining their own no-fly lists and sharing those lists with other airlines.