FAA Proposes Large Civil Penalties Against Numerous Passengers for Allegedly Interfering with Flight Attendants

FAA Proposes Large Civil Penalties Against Numerous Passengers for Allegedly Interfering with Flight Attendants

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed civil penalties ranging from $9,000 to $52,500 (see related story page 9) against numerous passengers for allegedly interfering with flight attendants who instructed them to obey cabin crew instructions and various federal regulations. The cases include assaulting flight crew, drinking alcohol brought aboard the plane and refusing to wear facemasks.

The enforcement actions are part of the FAA’s zero-tolerance policy for unruly and dangerous behavior by passengers. Since Jan. 1, 2021, the FAA has received approximately 3,200 reports of unruly behavior by passengers, including about 2,350 reports of passengers refusing to comply with the federal facemask mandate. During the same timeframe, the FAA has proposed $563,800 in fines against unruly passengers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) reminded the traveling public that they are still required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States. Masks are also required in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

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 FAA is strictly enforcing a zero-tolerance policy toward passengers who cause disturbances on flights or fail to obey flight crew instructions in violation of the FAA’s regulations or engage in conduct proscribed by federal law.

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