Passengers board an American Airlines flight from California to North Carolina Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images
The FAA has announced a fresh $225,287 in civil penalties against unruly passengers.
One passenger accused of punching her family and throwing trash at crew is facing a $32,000 fine.
More than 100 incidents of physical assault have been reported to the FAA in 2021.
The incident that led to largest fine in the Federal Aviation Administration’s latest round of civil penalties appears to have started over a seatbelt.
The FAA alleges that, on a flight to San Francisco from Austin, Texas last May, a Horizon Air passenger refused to follow crew members’ instructions to buckle up, and then punched and screamed at her son and husband.
When crew attempted to intervene, she threw trash at them and “snatched cookies from a nearby passenger,” the agency alleges.
Now she’s facing a $32,000 fine and has 30 days to respond to the charges following the agency’s notification of its enforcement decision.
The Horizon Air passenger was one of ten cases of alleged physical assault aboard US aircraft that the FAA announced on Wednesday, representing a combined total of $225,287 in civil penalties.
A Delta passenger was hit with a $20,000 proposed fine for another alleged incident of seatbelt violations that escalated to physical violence against a flight attendant, as well as threats that he would “[expletive] up his a**,” per the FAA.
Half of the cases involved violations of the FAA’s face masking regulations, with four who are alleged to have reacted violently to crew member instructions to wear a face mask, and one accused of spitting on a crew member and refusing to stow her carry-on luggage.
Interfering with aircraft crew is against federal law in the US, as is physically assaulting or threatening assault crew or anyone else on an aircraft. Penalties can include fines and prison time if a person is found guilty.
More than 5,000 reports of unruly behavior by passengers have been logged at the FAA, but only 227 cases have had enforcement action initiated, meaning offenders pay civil penalties and are not charged with a criminal offense, the agency said.
More than 100 of the passenger disturbance reports this year have involved physical assault, and the total penalties for 2021 now top $1.2 million with this latest announcement.
The FAA can only issue civil penalties, but the agency previously said it has referred 37 of the “most egregious” cases to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for criminal prosecution.
Flight attendants have previously reported being punched, groped, spat at, and verbally abused by passengers this year.
If you are a flight crewmember or airline passenger who would like to share an unruly passenger experience with Insider, please email Dominick Reuter.
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