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FAA throws down the hammer with new rules on unruly airline passengers

Those who cross the line may be fined up to $35,000 and could spend time in prison

Photo (c) REB Images - Getty Images
If you plan on flying anytime soon, don’t act like a fool. The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Administrator Steve Dickson has signed an order directing a harsher legal enforcement policy against unruly airline passengers. The move comes in the wake of recent episodes where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior, as well as cases in which some passengers refused to wear masks onboard a flight.

The move follows the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) new set of standards for determining whether an airline was being unfair or deceptive in dealing with passengers. 

“Flying is the safest mode of transportation and I signed this order to keep it that way,” Dickson said.

Be prepared to write a check for $35,000 if you act up

Up to now, the FAA has had a more lenient way of addressing unruly-passenger incidents by using a mix of warnings, counseling, and civil penalties. Dickson said the kid gloves are off now. Effective immediately, the FAA is getting rid of the simple warning or required counseling. Instead, the agency will pursue legal enforcement action against any passenger who “assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members.” 

If a passenger acts up in any fashion that crosses that warning line, they should be prepared to pay a fine of up to $35,000 and possibly spend time in prison on top of that. 

This policy will be in effect through March 30, 2021.

Don’t test the FAA

Dickson reminds the flying public that the FAA monitors and tracks all commercial passenger flights in real-time, and it has reporting mechanisms in place for crew members to identify any safety and security concerns that may arise in flight. 

“We have zero tolerance for threatening or violent behavior by passengers, and we will take the strongest possible enforcement action against any passenger who engages in it,” he said.

Airlines for America (A4A), an advocacy group representing the aviation industry, praised Dickson for the FAA’s assertiveness. 

“The safety and security of passengers and employees is always the top priority of the U.S. airline industry, and we welcome the FAA’s order to implement a more stringent policy regarding unruly passenger behavior,” A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio said. “We cannot have any form of dangerous behavior that threatens the safety of passengers and crew members.”

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