As we reported last month, the FAA is finally taking strong enforcement action against unruly passengers who disrupt air travel. Today, the FAA announced three new cases involving stiff penalties against such individuals. Not surprisingly, all three cases involved passengers who brought their own alcohol onto the plane.
In the first matter, the FAA assessed a $31,750 fine against a passenger for misconduct on a January 4, 2021 jetBlue Airlines flight from Haiti to Boston, Massachusetts. According to the FAA, the passenger brought alcohol on the plane and acted in a disruptive manner, including yelling and waving his hands “in an angry manner” at flight attendants who were called over by another passenger who complained about his behavior. The FAA also claimed that the unruly passenger grabbed the arms of two separate flight attendants during the flight, and the cabin crew had to reseat the surrounding passengers. As a result of these altercations, the “flight crew asked law enforcement to meet the aircraft at the arrival gate, and police escorted the passenger off the plane.”
The second case, which occurred on the same January 4, 2021 jetBlue Airlines flight from Haiti to Boston, also involved a passenger who was drinking his personal alcohol. The FAA claims the passenger “yelled, shouted obscenities, and made motions to strike a flight attendant when they arrived at his seat in response to a complaint from another passenger.” The police also escorted this passenger from the plane at the arrival gate.
The third case involved a January 14, 2021, SkyWest Airlines flight from Yuma, Ariz., to Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. As with the first two incidents, the passenger also brought his own alcohol on the plane, and “drank multiple 50 ml bottles.” According to the FAA, “the passenger repeatedly turned around and tried to touch a passenger behind him.” After the flight attendants moved him to another seat, “he continued to bother passengers around him and to leave his seat.” Two off-duty law enforcement officers had to physically wrestle him back into his seat. However, even after that:
the passenger again got up and started to walk to the front of the aircraft. A flight attendant yelled at him to sit back down, and the law enforcement officers sat in the row behind him. As a result of the passenger’s behavior, the captain requested priority handling from air traffic control and asked that law enforcement meet the aircraft at the arrival gate.
In a press release announcing these fines, the FAA confirmed that it is “strictly enforcing a zero-tolerance policy toward passengers who cause disturbances on flights, fail to obey flight crew instructions in violation of the FAA’s regulations, or engage in conduct proscribed by federal law.”
While imposing these penalties is important, it is good to see that the FAA is also aggressively publicizing these actions. Penalties have no deterrent effect if no one knows about them. Hopefully, the FAA will continue to scrutinize issues such as last week’s passenger brawl in Miami and take appropriate, tough action.