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Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson at the Senate last June in Washington, DC.. Photo: Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Monday unruly airline passenger incidents have soared this year, with airlines reporting some 1,300 cases since February, per Reuters.

Why it matters: The FAA usually deals with 100-150 reports of such behavior in any given year, NBC News notes. Passenger numbers remain below pre-pandemic levels.

The big picture: The FAA announced in January a new "zero tolerance" policy after seeing a spike in passengers disrupting flights with threatening or violent behavior stemming from their refusal to wear masks and the U.S. Capitol riot.

  • The transportation agency had previously responded to unruly passenger incidents with methods such as warnings, counseling and civil penalties.
  • Now, passengers can be fined up to $35,000 and face imprisonment for interfering with crew members. Despite this, there have been a spate of incidents aboard planes in recent weeks.

What's happening: A 28-year-old woman was arrested Sunday for allegedly attacking an American Airlines flight attendant on the flight from Miami to New York City.

  • Alaska Airlines banned Alaska state Sen. Lora Reinbold (R) for refusing to comply with face mask requirements, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
  • Also this year there was a "fistfight" over face coverings in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; a passenger escorted from a flight in Washington, D.C., for arguing with attendants about masks and a Los Angeles-bound plane made an emergency landing in Denver "after a passenger allegedly tried to open an emergency exit," NBC News reports.

Of note: The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) last month extended the mask-wearing mandate for flights until September.

  • The TSA said Friday some 2,000 passengers had been reported for refusing to wear a face covering since Feb. 2 when the requirements came into effect, Reuters notes.

What they're saying: Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants union, told NBC News, the abuse flight attendants had reported experiencing this year was "way off the charts" compared to what's happened in the past 20 years.

  • "What we have seen on our planes is flight attendants being physically assaulted, pushed, choked," Nelson said. "We have a passenger urinate. We had a passenger spit into the mouth of a child on board."
  • FAA chief Steve Dickson tweeted, "We will not tolerate interfering with a flight crew and the performance of their safety duties. Period."

Go deeper

56 mins ago - Health

Biden reaches agreements with Uber and Lyft to give free rides to vaccine sites

A coronavirus vaccination site in Miami on May 10. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Biden administration has reached agreements with ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft to offer free rides to coronavirus vaccination sites through July 4, the White House announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The free rides, starting in the next two weeks, are part of the Biden administration's push to administer at least one vaccine dose to 70% of U.S. adults by Independence Day.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Biden officials green-light nation's first big offshore wind project

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration today gave final approval to Vineyard Wind, a project off the Massachusetts coast slated to be the country's first large-scale offshore wind farm.

Why it matters: While the green-light for the long-proposed projected was expected, it marks a key step in White House plans to help spur development of a suite of coastal projects off New York, New Jersey and other states.

Global temperatures are cooler in 2021 than other recent years

Data: NASA; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

With a moderate La Niña event in the tropical Pacific Ocean, global temperatures in 2021 are running decidedly cooler when compared to recent years.

Why it matters: The lack of a new warmest year record in 2021 could sap some of the sense of urgency among policymakers in the U.S. and abroad during a critical year for enacting stricter emissions cuts to meet the Paris Agreement's targets.