Four airplane passengers who are accused of refusing to wear masks, hurling food and insulting flight attendants are staring down hefty fines from the federal government.
The Federal Aviation Administration under the U.S. Department of Transportation is planning to fine the individuals between $9,000 and $32,750 for incidents that occurred from Dec. 22 to Feb. 7, the agency said in a news release Wednesday. Those passengers, who are not named, will have 30 days to respond after receiving the enforcement letter.
“The FAA has proposed fines between $9K and $33K against four passengers for allegedly interfering with and, in two cases, assaulting flight attendants,” the agency said in a tweet. “We have zero tolerance for unruly or dangerous behavior. Our fines can reach up to $35K.”
The announcement comes amid a rash of “unruly or dangerous behavior aboard passenger airplanes,” NBC News reported, citing an estimated 1,300 number of reports since the start of the year.
In the last three months, the FAA has proposed fines ranging from $12,000 to $27,000 for any number of incidents — including passengers not wearing a required face covering, hitting flight attendants, shouting obscenities or taking swigs of their own alcohol while in flight.
But Wednesday’s proposed fine of $32,750 against a single passenger is by far the largest.
Officials said the incident occurred Feb. 7 on a JetBlue flight from the Dominican Republic to New York. The passenger is accused of not wearing a face mask, throwing an empty bottle of alcohol and food in the air and shouting at crew members. She also “grabbed a flight attendant’s arm, causing her pain” and “struck the arm of another flight attendant twice and scratched his hand,” the agency said.
The flight was ultimately diverted back to the Dominican Republic, according to the FAA.
A few weeks earlier on a Jan. 26 Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Sacramento, officials said a passenger wouldn’t put his face mask over his nose and mouth as he boarded the plane and sat down.
“When a second flight attendant instructed the passenger to wear his mask over his nose and mouth, he became combative and used offensive language,” the FAA said.
He was asked to leave and, in doing so, reportedly hit one of the flight attendants with his bags while calling the crew “pathetic.” The FAA has proposed a fine of $16,750 against the passenger.
Two other passengers face fines of $9,000 each for separate incidents that occurred on Dec. 22 and Jan. 30.
The first involved a passenger on a Delta flight from Minneapolis to Philadelphia who started pacing the aisles during takeoff, refused to sit back down and repeatedly asked to get off the plane. The flight had to return to Minneapolis, officials said.
In the second incident, a passenger on an Alaska Airlines flight from Bozeman, Montana, to Seattle wouldn’t wear a face mask even after flight attendants provided him with one.
“The passenger was not wearing a mask when the plane left the gate, and flight attendants reminded him of the airline policy. Flight attendants repeatedly asked him to put on a mask as the plane taxied to the runway, but he failed to do so,” the FAA said. “As a result of his actions, the captain returned the flight to the gate and the passenger was removed from the plane.”