FAA levied more than $1M in fines against 'unruly passengers' this year amid mask mandate

So far this year, the Federal Aviation Administration has levied more than $1 million in fines against "unruly" passengers.


The agency announced $531,545 in civil penalties on Thursday, with proposed fines ranging from $7,500 against a passenger who allegedly threatened to kill someone seated near him to $45,000 against a passenger who allegedly threw objects – including his carry-on luggage – at other passengers and put his head up a flight attendant’s skirt.


It's not yet clear how much money the FAA will end up collecting.

The penalties come amid a surge in "unruly" passenger reports. The FAA has received about 3,889 reports of unruly behavior since Jan. 1, nearly three-fourths of which were passengers who allegedly refused to comply with the federal face mask mandate in airports and on airplanes, which has now been extended through Jan. 18.


The FAA has initiated 682 investigations so far this year, more than four times the total in 2019; however, the agency lacks the authority to pursue criminal charges.


FAA chief Stephen Dickson suggested earlier this month that local police should file charges more often against unruly airline passengers, and believes airports should step in and work with concessionaires, to help curb alcohol-related incidents.


Because several airlines have suspended in-service alcoholic beverage sales during the pandemic, some passengers are buying drinks at the airport and bringing them onboard, despite a federal regulation banning that practice.


The Association of Flight Attendants has called for more criminal prosecutions as well. The union reported last month that nearly one in five flight attendants say they have witnessed physical incidents involving passengers this year, many of whom were triggered by the face mask mandate or lack of alcohol on board.


Many of these violent incidents – especially those captured on video – have gained national attention. In July, an American Airlines passenger was restrained to her seat with tape after allegedly trying to open the plane’s door and attacking a flight attendant.


Earlier this month, attendants on a Frontier Airlines flight restrained a passenger with duct tape after he allegedly punched and groped crew members.


United Airlines sent a memo to employees last week reminding them not to restrain passengers with tape, a move that AFA president Sara Nelson called a "marketing stunt by the airline that removed duct tape from cabin in 2014.”


Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration has brought back self-defense training for flight crews, reporting in June that it had been experiencing similar incidents with "unruly" passengers at checkpoints across the country.


This article originally appeared on USA Today

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