The FAA Wants To Punish Reckless Airline Passengers Even Harder

Flight crews and the FAA would love it if drunk passengers stopped punching people.

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Photo: David McNew / Staff (Getty Images)

Flight crews are facing a sizable problem with unruly passengers disobeying orders and punching flight attendants. The Federal Aviation Administration is asking for authorities to criminally charge reckless passengers and for airports to stop serving to-go alcohol.

In January, the FAA announced a stricter policy that fines reckless passengers up to $35,000 and threatens jail time on top of that. The federal regulator also made a meme:


You’d think the threat of being fined the value of a Ram 2500 Tradesman would stop people from trying to beat up flight attendants, but the incidents continue to happen. The FAA’s investigations have found alcohol to be a contributing factor in some of these incidents. As a result, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson is asking airport concession stands to stop serving alcohol in to-go cups.

The FAA requests that airports work with their concessionaires to help avoid this. Even though FAA regulations specifically prohibit the consumption of alcohol aboard an aircraft that is not served by the airline, we have received reports that some airport concessionaires have offered alcohol ‘to go,’ and passengers believe they can carry that alcohol onto their flights or they become inebriated during the boarding process.


The FAA also found that passengers that disrupted flights are rarely seeing criminal charges. While the regulator is able to fine these passengers, it does not have the power to prosecute them. It has found that local police often interview passengers for alleged bad behavior then releases them without charges of any kind.

Some airlines have already stopped serving alcohol because of the pandemic but others are following suit to protect flight crews. Southwest Airlines recently stopped serving alcohol after a passenger punched a flight attendant in the face, resulting in the attendant losing two teeth. The FAA hopes that criminally-charging these passengers on top of the fines will make them think twice.