FAA says unruly passengers will be stripped of their TSA PreCheck privileges

·3 min read
TSA Pre Check
TSA Pre CheckDavid Tran Photo/Shutterstock
  • Passengers who have been fined by the FAA for bad behavior could lose their TSA PreCheck privileges.

  • The two agencies have created a partnership so the FAA can share details of unruly passengers with the TSA.

  • Cases of disruptive passengers have skyrocketed since the pandemic, with a majority relating to the mask mandate.

Unruly passengers have become a thorn in the side for airline workers throughout the pandemic, and regulators are ready to impose more consequences for bad behavior.

On Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration announced a new partnership with the Transportation Security Administration that would allow the FAA to share the details of passengers who have been fined for disruptive behavior with the TSA. The TSA can then remove those passengers from TSA PreCheck, which is a privilege given to travelers deemed "low-risk."

These passengers typically do not have to remove their shoes, belts, or light jackets from their body, or large electronics and liquids from their bags when passing through the security checkpoint.

"TSA has zero tolerance for the unruly behaviors, especially those involving physical assault occurring aboard aircraft. We have tremendous respect for airport staff, gate agents and flight crews that get people safely to their destinations," TSA Administrator David Pekoske said. "This partnership with FAA will help ensure the safety and security of all passengers and hold those who violate federal regulations accountable for their actions."

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson echoed Pekoske, saying the information-sharing will encourage passengers to be safe and responsible travelers.

"If you act out of line, you will wait in line," he said in a press release.

Unruly passengers continue to be a hot topic in the airline industry as cases soar to record heights. As of December 14, the FAA has received 5,664 reports of unruly behavior, with 4,072 being mask-related, according to the agency.

Of the over 5,000 reports, just 315 have had enforcement cases initiated, which can be fines of up to $37,000 per violation. According to CNN, the cases amount to over $1.45 million in civil penalties against disruptive passengers.

The FAA and TSA's recent partnership is one of a handful of attempts to deter disruptive acts on aircraft and in airports. In January, the agency implemented a "zero-tolerance" policy after a disturbing increase in the number of unruly passenger reports, mostly over the mask mandate.

The policy does not allow anyone who "assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members" from being let off with just a warning or counseling, which was an option before.

The FAA has also started an "information-sharing protocol" with the Department of Justice to send the "most egregious" acts of violence from unruly passengers to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for review.

As of November, 37 names have been sent to the FBI, but Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants Union, said not enough is being done to address incidents in the airport, according to CBS News. She explained the FAA's numbers do not include ground employees who have faced unruly passengers, and none of those passengers have been punished under federal law.

"When incidents occur at the gates, local law officers are slow to respond, fail to properly document the incident by taking statements from witnesses and often do not detain the offending passenger," Nelson said in prepared remarks for a Senate hearing last Wednesday viewed by CBS News.

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