Nov 23, 2021 - Economy

FAA: 8 unruly passengers face more than $160,000 in fines

A "Masks Required" sign at a Delta Air Lines gate in Terminal C of LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021.

Photo: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Eight airline passengers are facing fines totaling more than $160,000 for violations of alcohol and face mask rules aboard planes — including an individual penalty of over $40,000.

Why it matters: There have been more than 5,000 unruly passenger reports this year — including nearly 3,800 mask-related incidents, according to the latest figures from the Federal Aviation Administration, which proposed the latest fines.

  • "Since Jan. 1, 2021, the FAA has received nearly 300 reports of passenger disturbances due to alcohol and intoxication," per an agency statement Monday.

The big picture: The FAA and the Justice Department established an information-sharing protocol in August to refer unruly passenger cases to the FBI for review.

  • The FAA said the rate of unruly passenger incidents on commercial flights had fallen since it launched its "zero tolerance" policy in January, "but the rate remains too high."
  • The agency said the eight passengers, whom it did not identify, face a combined total of $161,823 in civil penalties, although they have 30 days to contest the fines. All of the cases involved alcohol.

Details: The biggest fine, $40,823, was for a passenger who the FAA says illegally brought and consumed their own alcohol aboard an April Southwest Airlines flight, according to the FAA's statement Monday.

  • The FAA alleges that when the traveler was asked to stop drinking "the passenger then sexually assaulted the flight attendant" before going to the bathroom to smoke cannabis.
  • The passenger was arrested for resisting arrest and public intoxication when the plane landed in San Diego, the FAA said. It was not immediately clear why the passenger wasn't charged with assault, but the FAA doesn't have the authority to file criminal charges.
  • The other passengers face fines ranging from $8,250 to $24,000. All but one of those cases also involved resistance to complying with face mask requirements.
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