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Fines for unruly passengers this year top $1 million

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Assaulting passengers and crew. Threatening to kill flight attendants. Refusing to wear masks. Unruly passengers are still wreaking havoc on flights, and the Federal Aviation Administration announced Thursday it will request $531,545 in fines against 34 passengers for a variety of alleged bad behavior, including bringing drugs or alcohol on board.

The agency said the new requests bring the total fines for 2021 to more than $1 million.

One passenger faces a $45,000 fine for allegedly throwing his carry-on luggage at other passengers, lying on the floor in the aisle and refusing to get up, and grabbing a flight attendant by the ankles and putting his head up her skirt during a May 24 jetBlue flight from New York City to Orlando, Florida. The plane had to make an emergency landing in Richmond, Virginia, according to a news release from the agency.

Another jetBlue flight was diverted to Minneapolis on its way to San Francisco after a passenger allegedly refused to wear a mask, threatening another passenger and throwing a playing card at him and snorting what appeared to be cocaine, authorities said. Law enforcement removed the passenger, who now faces a $42,000 fine, from the May 16 flight.

A passenger on a January 3 Frontier Airlines flight from Atlanta allegedly tried to get onto the flight deck after the flight had arrived in New York City, assaulting two flight attendants, demanding they open the door and threatening to kill one of them, according to the agency. He now faces a $30,000 fine.

Since the beginning of the year, the FAA has received complaints about 3,889 passengers — 2,867 for refusing to wear a mask. The agency has requested civil penalties in 120 of those cases. Passengers may appeal the fines. 

The Transportation Security Administration announced Tuesday passengers would be required to wear masks at airports, on commercial aircraft, buses and commuter rail systems until January, extending the mandate’s expiration from September 13. Twenty-one of the incidents the FAA announced Thursday involved passengers refusing to comply with mask rules.

An Allegiant Airlines passenger is facing a $10,500 fine for allegedly failing to wear a mask and then urinating on the bathroom floor, which leaked into the gallery area, during an April 29 flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Covington, Kentucky, the agency said Thursday.

The FAA has also asked airports to work with local law enforcement on criminal prosecutions and that airports help prevent passengers from bringing to-go cups with alcohol on board. Eight of the incidents detailed in Thursday’s announcement involved passengers drinking alcohol they had brought onto the flight, including an incident where a woman on an Oakland, California to Las Vegas flight allegedly refused to wear her face mask, didn’t listen to a flight attendant about turning off her phone during takeoff and wouldn’t stop drinking alcohol the airline had not served to her. She faces a $13,000 fine.

Air travel was up, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Three times as many people traveled in June as they did a year previously, but that figure was still a 21% decline from June 2019. Twenty-one carriers reported 66.4 million passengers during the month. 


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