Travel | January 14, 2021 11:47 am

Disruptive Airline Passengers Now Face Potential $35K Fines and 20-Year Prison Terms

New FAA regulations follow "a disturbing increase" in airline passengers displaying threatening or violent behavior

masked flight attendant on an airplane
The FAA announced new protocol for dealing with disruptive passengers.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Normally we’d be against telling someone to sit down and shut up.

On airlines, however, we’re all for compliance and safety, and for keeping rude and possibly dangerous passengers quiet in their seats.

Good news: Days after the riot at the Capitol, and soon after the head of the flight attendants union expressed concern for employee safety, it appears that disruptive fliers could be in for heavy and more strictly-enforced fines … or even prison.

As reported by Gizmodo, the Federal Aviation Administration will now potentially fine airplane passengers who threaten or assault crew members up to $35,000 or press charges that come with up to 20 years of prison time. A press release by the FAA notes that the agency has witnessed “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 [Editor’s note: see here] and from recent violence at the U.S. Capitol.”

These fines and potential prison terms are now in lieu of the previous deescalation method of warnings followed by smaller fines. The policy will be in effect through March 30.

Side note: Several recent videos circulating seem to suggest passengers who participated in the Capitol riot were being put on the FBI’s No-Fly list; the more likely explanation is that these passengers were kicked off their flights due to behavior at the airport or on the plane.

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