The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposes $201,287 in civil penalties against 10 airline passengers for alleged unruly behavior involving physical assault. Since Jan. 1, 2021, the FAA has received more than 100 reports of passenger disturbances involving physical assault. Federal law prohibits passengers from assaulting fellow passengers or crew aboard a flight.
The rate of unruly passenger incidents on commercial flights has dropped sharply since the FAA launched its Zero Tolerance campaign but the rate remains too high. Detailed current data on these incidents is available on our unruly passenger webpage. The fines are part of the agency’s Zero Tolerance campaign against unruly passenger behavior. The FAA lacks criminal prosecutorial authority but has referred cases to the Department of Justice where the evidence supports criminal review.
The new cases announced today are:
- $32,000 against a passenger on a May 18, 2021, Horizon Air flight from Austin, Texas, to San Francisco, Calif. The FAA alleges the passenger did not follow crew instruction to fasten her seatbelt. She punched and screamed at her husband and son, repeatedly, diverting flight attendants from their duties. She threw trash at a flight attendant, and snatched cookies from a nearby passenger.
- $20,000 against a passenger on a Jan. 4, 2021, Delta Air Lines flight from New York, N.Y., to Los Angeles, Calif. The FAA alleges the passenger yelled orders at multiple flight attendants while the plane taxied from the gate. He removed his seatbelt, left his seat while the fastened seatbelt sign was on, and refused to return to his seat after a flight attendant instructed him to do so. He threatened a flight attendant by saying he was going to “[expletive] up his a**.” While moving up and down the aisle during taxiing, he made physical contact with a flight attendant, and continued yelling profanities. The flight returned to the gate and law enforcement officers were forced to board the flight to remove the man.
- $26,787 against a passenger on a May 5, 2021, Southwest Airlines flight from New York City to Chicago, Ill. The FAA alleges that during final descent and despite crew instruction to remain seated, he left his seat and attempted to enter the cockpit. Flight attendants did not consider his actions to be aggressive but determined he needed additional observation. After he returned to his seat, he incorrectly thought the aircraft was already at the gate and attempted to remove his luggage from the overhead bin. Flight attendants coaxed him to the back of the aircraft and sat him on the floor to ensure he remained seated during landing. While the aircraft braked during touch down, flight attendants attempted to hold him down to keep him from injuring himself. He began punching one of the flight attendants. The flight attendant required medical attention. Law enforcement met the passenger at the arrival gate.
- $25,000 against a passenger on a Feb. 3, 2021, Southwest Airlines flight from Boston, Mass., to Chicago Ill. The FAA alleges the passenger refused crew instruction to stow her carry-on luggage in the overhead bin. Crew instructed her to exit the aircraft and speak with ground station personnel. Ground station personnel informed her that she could not continue with the flight. She re-boarded the aircraft to collect her carry-on luggage. Instead, she sat in a seat, held onto the armrest, shouted loudly and aggressively, and used derogatory language and obscene gestures towards the crewmember. As she disembarked, she broke loose from a travel companion’s grip and spat on a crewmember. Police met her at the gate.
- $24,000 against a passenger on a Jan. 21, 2021, American Airlines flight from Tampa, Fla., to Miami, Fla. The FAA alleges that the passenger failed to follow crew instruction to wear her facemask during boarding. The passenger and her travel companions were disruptive while the aircraft stayed at the gate due to a minor mechanical issue. Several passengers requested a seat reassignment to avoid the group. A flight attendant asked her to wear her facemask but she removed it as the flight attendant walked away. The captain requested to remove her from the aircraft. On her way off the plane, she physically assaulted the flight attendant by shoving her in the chest.
- $24,000 against a passenger on a March 28, 2021, Southwest Airlines flight from New Orleans, La., to Baltimore, Md. The FAA alleges that a flight attendant instructed her to comply with the facemask policy. As the flight attendant continued trash pick-up, she intentionally elbowed him in the side and kicked him. This behavior was reported to the captain who locked down the cockpit and requested law enforcement to meet the woman at the gate.
- $24,000 against a passenger on a Dec. 27, 2020, Delta Air Lines flight from Detroit, Mich., to Salt Lake City, Utah. The FAA alleges she refused to follow crew instruction to wear her mask, threatened crewmembers, cursed at crewmembers and shoved a crewmember.
- $23,000 against a passenger on a March 11, 2021, American Airlines flight from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, to Aspen, Colo. The FAA alleges that the passenger verbally abused flight attendants after she realized her assigned seat would not recline. Multiple passengers offered to switch seats with her, but she repeatedly declined and kept yelling at flight attendants. She agreed to switch seats with another passenger but continued to verbally abuse flight attendants. She then struck a flight attendant on the right forearm, and attempted to do so again. Further, she repeatedly refused to comply with the facemask policy. Law enforcement met her at the arrival gate.
- $17,500 against a passenger on a Nov. 7, 2020, jetBlue Airlines flight from Newark, N.J., to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The FAA alleges the passenger used profane language and physically assaulted a flight crewmember. The man yelled at the crewmember to “get his fat a** out of my face,” and then pushed him. The captain diverted the flight to Richmond, Va. Police met the passenger at the gate.
- $9,000 against a passenger on a March 20, 2021, American Airlines flight from Cancun, Mexico, to Indianapolis, Ind. As the flight descended, he stomped and/or kicked the feet of the passenger seated behind him. The captain asked police to meet the flight at the arrival gate.
The FAA launched a public awareness campaign to engage with airline passengers, flight attendants, pilots, and travelers on this issue.
Campaign items to discourage unruly behavior include the FAA Kids Talk PSA and other content across the FAA’s social media platforms.
The passengers have 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.
The FAA does not identify individuals against whom it proposes civil penalties.
Featured image credited to istock.com/JakeOlimb