Travel: FAA proposes its two-largest ever fines against unruly passengers

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The Federal Aviation Administration proposed two new fines against passengers for two separate incidents last July.

The two fines, announced Friday, are the largest the agency says it has ever assessed for alleged unruly behavior.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced the fines on Friday’s episode of ABC’s “The View.”

“If you are on an airplane, don’t be a jerk and don’t endanger the flight crews and fellow passengers,” Buttigieg said. “If you do, you will be fined by the FAA.”

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In the first incident, on July 7, 2021, the FAA alleges that a passenger on an American Airlines flight between Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) pushed a flight attendant who was trying to assist her and tried to open the cabin door. As two flight attendants attempted to restrain her, she allegedly hit one of them on the head. Once restrained, the FAA alleges that this passenger spat at, headbutted, and attempted to kick crewmembers and other passengers. The FAA is proposing a fine of $81,950 for this passenger.

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The second incident, on July 16, 2021, involves a passenger flying aboard a Delta Air Lines flight from Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas (LAS) to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). This passenger allegedly tried to hug and kiss her seatmate and then tried to exit the plane while in flight, and then returned to her seat, where she bit another passenger. The FAA is proposing a $77,272 fine for this passenger.

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These types of incidents are down significantly from their peak in early 2021, but “more work remains,” the FAA said in a press release announcing the fines. The FAA has already proposed more than $2 million in fines since the beginning of this year. Last year, Attorney General Merrick Garland made the prosecution of these incidents a priority for the Department of Justice. Federal prosecution carries significantly more weight than the civil penalties assessed by the FAA.

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FAA unruly passenger incidents are declining. (Courtesy of the FAA) © The Points Guy FAA unruly passenger incidents are declining. (Courtesy of the FAA)

Despite the decrease in unruly cases, flight attendants still say they feel threatened by unruly passengers, said Julie Hedrick, the president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union representing American Airlines flight attendants.

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“Flight Attendants continue to face physical and verbal abuse, and we cannot sit by and allow these offenders to commit these dangerous acts from airline to airline,” Hedrick said in a statement this week about the introduction of federal legislation that would address the issue. “This behavior must stop. There must be severe consequences for injuring flight attendants.”

That bill, the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act, would create a federal “no-fly” list for unruly passengers, something that advocates have called overdue.

“We need the accountability of a federal ‘no-fly’ list to protect all crewmembers and passengers across the industry,” Hedrick said in the statement.

Featured photo by Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

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