The FAA isn’t f*cking around with your unruly bullshit anymore on planes. It was announced today that they’re fining a passenger $10,500 for refusing to wear a mask on a JetBlue Airlines flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Los Angeles. According to an FAA press release, “the passenger repeatedly ignored, and was abusive to, flight attendants who instructed him to wear a facemask.” It continues, “At one point, while not wearing a mask, he coughed and blew his nose into a blanket.”
In the same press release, the FAA also announced they were fining another passenger $9,000 for interfering with cabin crew during boarding. In this case, the FAA remarked that on yet another JetBlue flight from Los Angeles to Newark: “The passenger acted in a disruptive manner while boarding the flight.” The press release goes on, “He yelled, slammed overhead bins, and shouted profanities at the cabin crew, including threatening to harass a flight attendant during the entire flight. He also shouted profanities at the captain when the captain entered the cabin to ensure the passenger got off the plane.”
ICYMI: The FAA has proposed fines of $10.5K and $9K against two passengers for allegedly interfering with flight attendants. We have zero tolerance for unruly or dangerous behavior. Our fines can reach up to $35K. https://t.co/nmcdaR7G6K #FlySmart pic.twitter.com/XQBMqUbgOB
— The FAA ✈️ (@FAANews) May 11, 2021
While those two fines may seem steep, they’re nowhere near as high as they could be. Back in January, the FAA mandated new regulations for dealing with “unruly” passengers after a spike in passenger disturbances thanks to people flying to Washington, DC for the failed coup on January 6th.
On January 13th, the FAA announced in a press release that they were adopting a “Stricter Unruly Passenger Policy.” That policy was meant to expire on March 31st of this year, but since the TSA extended their mandatory mask policy, the FAA extender their “stricter” passenger policy too — until at least September.
So, what does this “Stricter” policy entail? From the FAA press release: “Passengers who interfere with, physically assault, or threaten to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft face stiff penalties, including fines of up to $35,000 and imprisonment. This dangerous behavior can distract, disrupt, and threaten crewmembers’ safety functions.” As for the TSA, their fines are lower. They’ll fine you $250 for your first offense of not wearing a mask in line and $1,500 for a repeated offense.
The FAA specifically notes in their press release that this is in reaction to more and more flight attendants getting verbally and physically assaulted while asking unruly passengers to wear their masks. According to reports in The Guardian, this is starting to go beyond just fines (and possible jail time). The FAA and U.S. airlines have already banned 3,000 Americans from flying so far this year for refusing to wear masks on planes.
As with all things related to flying, it’s on you to know your rights and the rules. If you break these regulations, it’s not someone else’s fault that you “didn’t know” you were breaking them. It’d be nice to say, “just don’t be an asshole.” But we are all painfully aware of how much of an oversimplification of the American psyche that seems to be nowadays.