FAA Levies Largest Fines Ever Against Two Unruly Passengers

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed the largest-ever fines ever against two passengers for alleged unruly behavior. The fines of $81,950 and $77,272, respectively, are part of the approximately $2 million the agency has proposed since Jan. 1, 2022.  

“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,” U.S. Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg told THE VIEW when he announced the fines.

The $81,950-fine involves a passenger on a July 7, 2021, American Airlines flight from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, to Charlotte, N.C. The FAA alleges the passenger threatened to hurt the flight attendant that offered help to the passenger after she fell into the aisle. The passenger then pushed the flight attendant aside and tried to open the cabin door. Two flight attendants tried to restrain the passenger, but she repeatedly hit one of the flight attendants on the head. After the passenger was restrained in flex cuffs, she spit at, headbutted, bit and tried to kick the crew and other passengers. Law enforcement apprehended her in Charlotte.  

The $77,272-fine involves a passenger on a July 16, 2021, Delta Air Lines flight from Las Vegas to Atlanta. The FAA alleges the passenger attempted 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. The crew had to physically restrain her. 

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 percent. But as today’s announcement demonstrates, more work remains.

Federal law prohibits interfering with aircraft crew or physically assaulting or threatening to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft. Passengers are subject to civil penalties for such misconduct, which can threaten the safety of the flight by disrupting or distracting cabin crew from their safety duties. Additionally, federal law provides for criminal fines and imprisonment of passengers who interfere with the performance of a crewmember’s duties by assaulting or intimidating that crewmember. 

The passengers have 30 days after receiving the FAA’s letter to respond to the agency. The FAA does not identify passengers against whom it proposes civil penalties.