An American Airlines passenger who allegedly paid a flight attendant and spat at crew members has faced the largest fine ever issued by US aviation regulators, and another more than $75,000 (£57,500) issued to a Delta passenger who bit his colleague. A passenger after trying to hug and kiss another.
Since January 2021 when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposed a zero-tolerance policy, the agency has proposed fines of about $7 million for annoying passengers. The new fines issued on Friday were the highest to date.
The Federal Aviation Administration proposed a $81,950 fine to an American Airlines passenger on a July flight from Dallas to Charlotte, North Carolina, alleging that the passenger “threatened to harm the flight attendant who offered to help the passenger after she fell in the aisle. The passenger then pushed the flight attendant aside. And try to open the cabin door.”
The FAA said: “Two flight attendants tried to restrain the passenger, but repeatedly hit one of the flight attendants on the head. After the passenger was handcuffed with elastic handcuffs, she said [spat] In, head butted, bitten and attempted to kick the crew and other passengers.”
The agency also proposed a $77,272 fine to a Delta passenger on a July flight from Las Vegas to Atlanta, alleging that the passenger “attempted to hug and kiss the passenger seated next to her; walked to the front of the plane to attempt exit during the flight; refused to return to her seat; and bit a passenger last several times.”
Delta said it “has zero tolerance for disorderly behavior in our airports and on our flights as nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and employees.”
The Federal Aviation Administration enforced its zero-tolerance mandate when violent passenger incidents escalated around the time of the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Incidents remained high after the Joe Biden administration imposed a mandate requiring passengers to wear masks on planes and at airports due to COVID cases in February 2021.
The FAA said the two incidents that led to fines on Friday involved passengers who objected to wearing masks.
US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told ABC’s The View Friday that the administration’s mandate to require masks on planes and on public transportation will either expire or be renewed on April 18.
“We all want to get where there are fewer restrictions. We just need to get to a point where it is safe to do so,” Buttigieg said. “Air travel is a little different from a lot of other environments but we want to get there.”
Airlines and congressional Republicans are pressing the White House to end the mask mandate, and some lawmakers sent a new letter to Biden on Friday.
The FAA said that since January 2021, 7,060 runaway passenger incidents have been reported, 70% of which are related to concealment rules, but the rate has fallen 60% since the highest level in 2021.
The FAA said in February it had referred 80 unruly passengers to the FBI for possible criminal prosecution.
Buttigieg said the administration and Congress are still looking into the no-fly list for disruptive passengers.
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