Unruly Airline Passengers Now Face Jail Time and $35K Fines
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson today signed an order directing a stricter legal enforcement policy against unruly airline passengers in the wake of recent, troubling incidents. There’s been a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior. These incidents have stemmed both from passengers’ refusals to wear masks and from recent violence at the U.S. Capitol.
Historically, the agency has addressed unruly-passenger incidents using a variety of methods ranging from warnings and counseling to civil penalties. Effective immediately, however, the FAA will not address these cases with warnings or counseling. The agency will pursue legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members. This policy will be in effect through March 30, 2021.
Passengers who interfere with, physically assault, or threaten to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft face stiff penalties, including fines of up to $35,000 and imprisonment. This dangerous behavior can distract, disrupt, and threaten crewmembers’ safety functions.
“Flying is the safest mode of transportation and I signed this order to keep it that way,” Administrator Dickson said in the announcement.
The FAA has initiated more than 1,300 enforcement actions against unruly passengers during the past 10 years, including recent cases for allegedly interfering with and assaulting flight attendants who instructed them to wear masks.