FAA seeks $124,500 in fines from unruly travelers

The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed eight fines totaling $124,500 for travelers who interfered with flight attendants, officials said Tuesday.

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The proposed fines include $21,000 assessed against a Southwest Airlines passenger who refused to wear a mask and hit an airline employee in the jaw during a February incident, The Dallas Morning News reported.

According to a news release, the incident at Dallas’ Love Field occurred on Feb. 22, 2021. The flight, which was heading from Dallas to Albuquerque, New Mexico, was forced to return to the gate.

The FAA wants to fine another passenger $22,000 for an incident that occurred on Feb. 15, 2021, the agency said in its release. The FAA alleged that a passenger aboard a SkyWest Airlines flight from Denver to Gypsum, Colorado, ignored flight attendants’ instructions to wear his mask, drank alcohol that was not served to him and went to a lavatory when a fastened seat belt light was on.

Another incident involving a SkyWest Airlines flight occurred on Jan. 20, 2021, the FAA said. The FAA recommended a $19,000 fine when a passenger became disruptive after a flight heading from Phoenix to Honolulu was forced to return to Arizona because of poor weather conditions in Mexico.

So far in 2021, the FAA has fined at least 60 people a total of more than $563,800, according to a Bloomberg report published on Tuesday. Since January, the FAA has received about 3,100 reports of unruly behavior by passengers, USA Today reported. That included about 2,350 reports of passengers refusing to obey FAA mask mandates.

Other fine proposals include a $15,000 assessment against an Alaska Airlines passenger aboard a flight from Chantilly, Virginia, to Seattle, the FAA said. Flight attendants allege that the passenger assaulted a flight attendant by pushing or shoving him when the attendant reached his row.

A $14,000 fine has been sought after a passenger aboard an Allegiant Air flight from Syracuse, New York, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, drank alcohol from a bottle that the airline did not serve and refused to wear a mask. That occurred during a Jan. 21, 2021, flight.

The FAA is also seeking a $14,000 fine against a passenger for her actions on a Feb. 25, 2021, flight from New York to Portland, Maine. The FAA alleged that the passenger did not comply with mask regulations and stood while the “fasten seat belt” sign was flashing.

A $10,500 fine was proposed for a man because of his actions on a Southwest Airlines flight the same day from Los Angeles to Sacramento, California. The FAA alleged that the man was not wearing his mask and was talking on his cellphone while the plane was on the runway preparing for takeoff. The man also allegedly used profane language, the agency said.

Finally, a $9,000 fine was requested for a passenger due to his actions during a Feb. 19, 2021, flight from Greensboro, North Carolina, to St. Petersburg, Florida. According to the FAA, the passenger refused to wear a mask and argued with attendants and then stood to “get into it and get to the bottom of this.” The passenger also began recording other passengers without their permission.

According to the Morning News, the fines were recommended after renewed pleas from airlines, flight attendants and pilots for the federal government to adopt “a stricter legal enforcement policy against unruly airline passengers,” according to a letter sent to congressional leaders from airlines and their unions. New policies are necessary because of “heightened concern regarding the substantial increase in and growing escalation of passengers’ unruly and disruptive behavior on board aircraft,” the letter said.