FAA gets tough on unruly passengers

Airplane on tarmac [Credit: Senohrabek/Shutterstock.com]
An FAA order directs the agency to more strictly penalize unruly behavior. Photo Credit: Senohrabek/Shutterstock.com

FAA Steve Dickson has signed an order directing the agency to more strictly penalize unruly passengers. 

The move comes in the wake of a spate of disruptions last week by people flying to and from Washington, where pro-Trump protest escalated into an attack on the Capitol. Threatening and violent behavior, as well as refusals to wear masks, have been growing problems, the FAA said. 

Related Wheels Up column: How did we get to D.C. unrest? Probably on a plane

Historically, the agency has often addressed unruly-passenger incidents by starting with warnings and counseling. Under the order, which is effective immediately, the agency will drop those steps and move straight to legal enforcement against passengers who assault, threaten, intimidate or interfere with crew members.

The policy will be in effect through March. Penalties can include fines of up $35,000 and imprisonment. 

The new FAA policy comes amid concerns of more unruly or dangerous behavior by flyers surrounding Inauguration Day on Jan. 20. 


Flight attendant unions have been lobbying for enhanced regulations that would make it easier to keep people who are displaying abusive behavior from boarding planes. And lawmakers have asked the TSA and FBI to add any individuals identified in the attack on the Capitol to the no-fly list.

During a Delta earnings call Thursday, CEO Ed Bastian said he expects that to happen.

"I do anticipate that if the TSA is able to identify individuals, you'll have people added to the no-fly list -- no question about it," he said.


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