The Federal Aviation Administration is on a campaign to curb the behavior of passengers who act out on flights. It has charged unruly passengers over a million in fines this year, most of them for not wearing a mask on a flight.
If you think flying this year is a bit rough, you’re not wrong. Flights are getting canceled left and right and passengers are turning violent on aircraft. Others just aren’t following the rules. The FAA is trying to deter these passengers by those who disrupt flights. Since the first of the year the regulator received 3,889 reports of unruly behavior, with 2,867 of those reports, or about 74 percent, involving passengers refusing to wear a mask on a plane.
We’ve covered a number of these incidents before and many start off with a passenger refusing to wear a mask and then escalate to a brawl at 30,000 feet. The FAA is threatening fines for unruly behavior, but it lacks the ability to criminally prosecute passengers that assault flight crews.
Its latest round of civil penalties adds up to $531,545 against 34 passengers. The regulator says that makes the 2021 total over $1 million with 682 investigations this year. In 2019, for comparison, the FAA conducted only 146 investigations for unruly behavior. As NBC News reports, there are usually between 100 and 150 unruly passenger cases a year. Prior to the pandemic, fines were lower, too.
It also published a list of some of the freshest cases of unruly passengers and some of them are absolutely mind-blowing:
$42,000 against a passenger on a May 16, 2021, jetBlue Airways flight from Queens, N.Y., to San Francisco, Calif., for allegedly interfering with crewmembers after failing to comply with the facemask mandate; making non-consensual physical contact with another passenger; throwing a playing card at a passenger and threatening him with physical harm; making stabbing gestures towards certain passengers; and snorting what appeared to be cocaine from a plastic bag, which the cabin crew confiscated. The passenger became increasingly agitated and the crew equipped themselves with flex cuffs and ice mallets to ensure the safety of the flight if his behavior worsened. The flight diverted to Minneapolis, Minn., where law enforcement removed the passenger from the aircraft.
The FAA believes part of the problem may be that passengers are getting drunk on to-go alcohol at airport concession stands prior to boarding. Still, while passengers may be getting fined big money, few face criminal penalties for their poor behavior.