Airline passengers could now face jail time for being unruly on flights
The Federal Aviation Administration said it’s received more than 1,300 complaints about unruly passengers since February, more than the previous decade combined.
According to The New York Times, four people are facing around $70,000 in civil fines for incidents including being asked to wear a mask on recent flights, hitting flight attendants, shouting, refusing to return to their seats, and throwing bottles of alcohol and food at airline staff.
The FAA said there has been a “disturbing increase” in the number of unruly passengers who seem to believe they are above a federally mandated mask policy required for them to fly. “We will not tolerate interfering with a flight crew and the performance of their safety duties,” Stephen Dickson, the administrator of the F.A.A., said on Twitter on May 3. “Period.”
There have been many incidents reported in the news over the last year, including one in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where a fistfight broke out over refusing to wear a mask. In Washington, D.C., a passenger was escorted off a flight over the same. Recently, Alaska Airlines banned an Alaska state senator for refusing to comply with mask requirements.
The agency is now taking a “zero-tolerance” policy when it comes to passenger behavior, stating they will face potential criminal charges, fines up to $35,000, or lifetime bans on certain airlines.
Pre-pandemic, there were 142 enforcement actions stemming from passengers in 2019, according to the F.A.A. In 2018, there were 159, and in 2017 just 91. The behavior is taking its toll on airline workers as well. Angela Hagedorn, a former flight attendant with Alaska Airlines, tweeted that she resigned over it.“It has been an exhausting time for all the employees who are just trying to do their job according to their company’s policies,” she said. “The constant arguing and pushback from guests, it’s ridiculous.”
The Transportation Security Administration’s initial face mask requirement went into effect on February 1 with an expiration date of May 11.
“The federal mask requirement throughout the transportation system seeks to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,” said Darby LaJoye, the Senior Official Performing the Duties of the TSA Administrator. “Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic. We will continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to evaluate the need for these directives and recognize the significant level of compliance thus far.”
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants union, told NBC News that airline employees have consigned to report a growing number of horrifying incidents on flights. “What we have seen on our planes is flight attendants being physically assaulted, pushed, choked,” she said. “We have a passenger urinate. We had a passenger spit into the mouth of a child on board. These are some of the things that we have been dealing with.”