Jan 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

FAA cracks down on unruly airline passengers in wake of Capitol riot

Photo: David Ryder / Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration announced a new "zero tolerance policy" toward unruly airline passengers, who could face fines of up to $35,000 and imprisonment for interfering with crew members.

Why it matters: The crackdown comes after the agency saw a "disturbing increase in incidents" of passengers disrupting flights with "threatening or violent behavior" stemming from their refusal to wear masks and recent violence at the U.S. Capitol.

Between the lines: In the past, the FAA responded to unruly passenger incidents with a variety of methods ranging from warnings and counseling to civil penalties.

  • Under the new order, in effect through March 30, the FAA will pursue legal action with no warning for anyone who assaults, threatens, intimidates or interferes with a crew member.
  • United Airlines told ABC News it has banned 60 people for mask violations in the last week alone, which is higher than their previous week averages.
  • Two days after the Capitol riot, videos showed passengers on an American flight en route from D.C. to Phoenix chanting "USA" and "Fight For Trump," eventually causing the pilot to threaten to divert the plane to Kansas if passengers didn't "behave."

What they're saying: "First strike and you're out. We applaud FAA Administrator (Steve) Dickson for taking this clear stand for our safety and security," Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said in a statement.

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