More airline passengers face fines for abusive behavior including spitting, kicking and punching

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is levying more than $200,000 in civil penalties against airline passengers for allegedly physically assaulting crew members, fellow passengers and even their own family members.  

Since Jan. 1, the federal agency has received more than 100 reports of disturbances that involved physical assault.

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"Federal law prohibits passengers from assaulting fellow passengers or crew aboard a flight," the FAA said.

FILE – In this Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, a passenger wears a face mask she travels on a Delta Air Lines flight after taking off from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File / AP Newsroom)

The latest fines are proposed against 10 passengers whose unruly behavior reportedly included punching and stomping on fellow passengers and family members as well as kicking, punching, spitting and throwing trash at flight attendants. 

In one instance, a passenger is facing a $25,000 fine after refusing to follow instructions to put her carry-on luggage in an overhead bin during a Southwest Airlines flight on Feb. 3. 

FAA SENDS 37 UNRULY PASSENGER CASES TO FBI FOR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION REVIEW

The passenger was told to speak with ground station personnel who informed her that she could not continue with the flight, according to the FAA. 

When the passenger re-boarded the aircraft to get her luggage, "she sat in a seat, held onto the armrest, shouted loudly and aggressively, and used derogatory language and obscene gestures towards the crewmember," the FAA said. 

Travelers walk through in Salt Lake City International Airport, Tuesday, March 9, 2021, in Salt Lake City.  (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer / AP Newsroom)

Then, "as she disembarked, she broke loose from a travel companion’s grip and spat on a crewmember," the FAA continued.  

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However, a passenger who flew on a Horizon Air flight from Austin, Texas, to San Francisco in May is facing the largest fine – about $32,000 – for refusing to fasten her seatbelt. 

"She punched and screamed at her husband and son, repeatedly, diverting flight attendants from their duties," the FAA said. "She threw trash at a flight attendant, and snatched cookies from a nearby passenger."

The 10 cases are the latest in a string of unruly passenger reports that the FAA has received since January when it implemented its zero-tolerance policy.

A passenger wears a face mask to help prevent against the spread of the coronavirus as he waits for a Delta Airlines flight at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.  (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File / AP Newsroom)

The policy was adopted after the agency saw a "disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior," the FAA said.  

Since then, the agency has been proposing fines against passengers who assault, threaten, intimidate or interfere with airline crew members. Under the FAA's Reauthorization Bill, the agency can propose up to $37,000 per violation as a repercussion. One reported incident, however, can lead to multiple violations, according to the agency. 

While the FAA can propose fines against unruly passengers, it can't prosecute criminal cases, so it's working with officials at the Justice Department to do so. 

The FAA and Justice Department began meeting in August to "develop an efficient method for referring the most serious unruly-passenger cases for potential criminal prosecution," the agencies said in a joint statement.  

Since then, the FAA has been sending the FBI the most "egregious" cases for criminal prosecution review.

FAA'S 'UNRULY' PASSENGER FINES REACH $1M AS AGENCY PROPOSES NEW PENALTIES

The FAA said the rate of unruly passenger incidents on commercial flights has "dropped sharply" due to the zero-tolerance policy, but cases are still mounting. 

In total, the FAA has received 5,114 unruly passenger reports. 

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