The Largest-Ever Penalties for Bad Behavior on a Flight Have Been Proposed
Two passengers are facing a total of nearly $160,000 in fines for biting, hitting and trying to open the cabin door mid-flight.
Stories of passengers losing their minds, attacking flight attendants and/or other passengers, and even trying to open the cabin door while in the air (?) are a dime a dozen these days. A Google search of the term “unruly passenger,” will turn up hundreds of thousands of results — the first four pages of which are from the last month alone.
As of April 4, according to USA Today, there had been 1,081 unruly passenger reports and 707 mask-related incidents on flights this year. Consequently, 309 investigations have since been initiated, 159 FAA enforcement cases have been started and 80 cases have been referred to the FBI for a criminal review. While those numbers are down from 2021 (there were 5,981 unruly passenger reports, 4,290 mask-related incident reports, 1,113 investigations initiated and 350 enforcement actions started last year), it turns out the end is… not exactly in sight.
That’s because now, just four months into 2022, the Federal Aviation Association has proposed their “largest-ever fines” to date. The two fines against two unruly passengers — in the amount of $81,950 and $77,272 respectively — are part of the nearly $2 million in penalties proposed by the FAA since January 1, per an announcement from the agency on Friday.
“The FAA’s Zero Tolerance policy against unruly passenger behavior and its public awareness campaign has decreased the rate of unruly incidents by nearly 60%,” the announcement said. “But as today’s announcement demonstrates, more work remains.”
The passenger facing the $77,272 fine is accused of trying “to hug and kiss the passenger seated next to her; walked to the front of the aircraft to try to exit during flight; refused to return to her seat; and bit another passenger multiple times,” while the other stands accused of repeatedly hitting a flight attendant in the head on an American Airlines flight last summer after attempting to open the aircraft door.
“We are thrilled that the FAA and Dept of Transportation are making fines match the crime,” said spokesman Paul Hartshorn of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. “We have to have accountability for people who are doing this.”
The news of the fines comes just ahead of a secondary report that Congress has allegedly drafted legislation to establish a national no-fly list for the most egregious of inflight offenders. Per a new report from Fox Business, while it is only the first step, a bill called the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act was introduced by Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn just this week.
And while the idea of putting unruly passengers on a no-fly list is going to be met with much debate, I think we can all agree that something’s gotta give. The fact is, if you willfully disobey the rules as they are explicitly outlined — let alone try to open the fucking cabin door at 36,000 feet — it should not come as a surprise when private companies move to refuse you service indefinitely. It’s not a three-strike system, nor should it be. If you’re willing to hit, or bite, a flight attendant over having to put your seat belt on, you should absolutely be placed on a no-fly list, full stop. If you wind up getting off with just an $82,000 fine, I’d consider that a lucky day.
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