Saturday, April 09, 2022

Federal Aviation Administration Seeks $159,222 in Fines From Two Passengers for Alleged Unruly Behavior

Agency says the civil penalties are its largest yet proposed





The Wall Street Journal 
By Talal Ansari
April 8, 2022 5:27 pm ET


The Federal Aviation Administration proposed its largest fines to date against two passengers for alleged unruly behavior, as the agency continues to deal with fallout from volatile incidents aboard flights during the pandemic.

The FAA said it proposed a fine of $81,950 for one traveler who allegedly threatened to hurt a flight attendant during an American Airlines Group Inc. flight from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, to Charlotte, North Carolina last summer.

The flight attendant had offered to help the passenger after she fell into the aisle, the FAA said. The passenger subsequently pushed the attendant aside and tried to open the cabin door. Two staffers worked to keep her from doing so, and the traveler later hit a flight attendant on the head, according to the FAA.

Even after being placed in flexible handcuffs, the traveler spit at, head-butted, bit and tried to kick the crew, as well as other passengers, according to the agency. Law enforcement apprehended her in Charlotte.

The FAA also proposed a $77,272 fine for a traveler on a Delta Air Lines Inc. flight last July from Las Vegas to Atlanta who allegedly attempted to hug and kiss the person seated next to her. The passenger then walked to the front of the aircraft to try to exit the plane during the flight and refused to return to her seat, the agency said. She bit another passenger more than once. 

The two individuals who face fines weren’t identified. They have 40 days after receiving the FAA’s letter to respond.

The agency can’t bring criminal cases against passengers who act out, but it has now brought more than $2 million in civil penalties against travelers who allegedly did so.

“FAA is saying that if you are violent on a plane, the government is going to punch back hard,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, about the latest fines.

Ms. Nelson said fines and penalties were put in place as a deterrent, but they only work if the consequences for those actions are sufficiently large. “Since a small group of people keep wreaking havoc on crew and passengers, the punishment has to get more severe,” she said.

As domestic travel rebounded from the earlier days of the pandemic, the number of travelers behaving problematically jumped in 2021. A national survey last year of nearly 5,000 flight attendants by the AFA-CWA found that over 85% of all respondents had dealt with unruly passengers in the first half of 2021.

The FAA pledged to take a more aggressive approach to pursuing punishments for passengers who flout safety rules and instituted a zero-tolerance policy against travelers’ unruly behavior. The agency said the new policy, in addition to a public awareness campaign, has decreased the rate of unruly incidents by nearly 60%.

“If you are on an airplane, don’t be a jerk and don’t endanger the flight crews and fellow passengers. If you do, you will be fined by the FAA,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Friday on ABC’s “The View,” when he announced the latest fines.