The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposes civil penalties ranging from $7,500 to $15,500 against four airline passengers for allegedly interfering with flight attendants who instructed them to obey cabin crew instructions and various federal regulations.
The enforcement actions announced today are part of the FAA’s zero-tolerance policy for unruly and dangerous behavior by passengers. Since Jan. 1, 2021, the FAA has received approximately 3,000 reports of unruly behavior by passengers, including about 2,300 reports of passengers refusing to comply with the federal facemask mandate. The cases are as follows:
- $15,500 against a passenger on a Feb. 5, 2021, jetBlue Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Las Vegas, Nev. The FAA alleges flight attendants told the passenger at least 10 times to wear his facemask over both his mouth and nose during the flight unless he was actively eating or drinking. He repeatedly ignored their instructions. He also drank mini bottles of alcohol that jetBlue did not serve to him, which is against FAA regulations.
- $10,500 against a passenger on a Feb. 27, 2021, jetBlue Airlines flight from New York to Cancun, Mexico. The FAA alleges that the passenger refused to wear her facemask properly and in one instance inserted her finger into her nose in response to a flight attendant’s direction to wear her mask. The FAA further alleges she yelled, used profanity and refused to read a warning note that a flight attendant issued to her. As a result of her disruptive behavior, the captain diverted the flight to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
- $10,300 against a passenger on a Feb 3, 2021, Alaska Airlines flight from Boise, Idaho, to Los Angeles, Calif. The FAA alleges the passenger smoked an e-cigarette in the airplane lavatory, which activated the lavatory smoke detector system. The FAA further alleges the passenger walked through the cabin without his facemask over his mouth and nose, and repeatedly ignored flight attendants’ instructions to wear his facemask properly.
- $7,500 against a passenger on a Feb. 3, 2021, Southwest Airlines flight from Fort Myers, Fla., to Denver, Colo. The FAA alleges the passenger repeatedly refused to comply with flight attendants’ instructions to wear her facemask.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) reminded the traveling public on May 14 that if you travel, you are still required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States. Masks are also required in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
Federal law prohibits interfering with aircraft crew or physically assaulting or threatening to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft. Passengers are subject to civil penalties for such misconduct, which can threaten the safety of the flight by disrupting or distracting cabin crew from their safety duties. Additionally, federal law provides for criminal fines and imprisonment of passengers who interfere with the performance of a crewmember’s duties by assaulting or intimidating that crewmember.
The FAA is strictly enforcing a zero-tolerance policy toward passengers who cause disturbances on flights or fail to obey flight crew instructions in violation of the FAA’s regulations or engage in conduct proscribed by federal law.
The passengers have 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency. The FAA does not identify individuals against whom it proposes civil penalties.