A Brief List of Things Unruly Airline Passengers Did to Incur $1 Million in Fines

Per the FAA, violent threats and defying face mask mandates were common issues

Travelers wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of covid-19 wait in line at the American Airlines ticket counter at Orlando International Airport. People defying the mask mandate is one of the major issues for airlines -- the FAA has handed out over $1 million in fine to unruly fliers.
Passengers fined by the FAA are often not complying with a face mask mandate
Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

Throwing luggage at other passengers. Violently refusing to wear a mask. Putting their head inside a flight attendant’s skirt.

That’s just some of the atrocious behavior from airline passengers that’s led to civil penalties totaling over $1 million in 2021, according to a new report by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Back in May this was already a record year for bad behavior and fines on flights. As the FAA noted this week, this year the agency has now received approximately 3,889 reports of unruly behavior by passengers, including about 2,867 reports of passengers refusing to comply with the federal face mask mandate. Their “Investigations Initiated” chart showcases a startling rise in bad behavior over the last few months.

Some of the most egregious examples:

  • $45,000 against a JetBlue passenger from New York to Orlando who was allegedly “throwing objects, including his carry-on luggage, at other passengers; refusing to stay seated; lying on the floor in the aisle, refusing to get up, and then grabbing a flight attendant by the ankles and putting his head up her skirt.” The plane was forced to make an emergency landing.

  • $42,000 against a different JetBlue passenger on May 16 for failing to comply with the face mask mandate, making stabbing gestures toward certain passengers and “snorting what appeared to be cocaine from a plastic bag.”

  • $10,000 against an Alaskan Airlines passenger on a Chicago-San Francisco flight who did not put on a face mask and “acted as though his hand was a gun and made a ‘pew, pew’ noise as if he was shooting a fellow passenger; after the doors closed but prior to pushback from the gate, he repeatedly pushed the call light button during a PA announcement by the captain and, when the flight attendant responded, he gestured at the PA system and responded in nonsensical babble. He then refused to deplane.”

The fines are part of the FAA’s Zero Tolerance program launched in January; it was then that the agency announced it would not address unruly passenger cases with warnings or counseling, instead pursuing heavy fines and legal enforcement.


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