FAA Fines For Unruly Passengers Reach $1 Million For 2021

The Federal Aviation Administration announced it has added more than $531,000 in fines against 34 passengers, bringing the year’s total to more than $1 million.

A Southwest Airlines flight takes off at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip, New York on March 25, 2021 | Getty Images
A Southwest Airlines flight takes off at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip, New York on March 25, 2021 | Getty Images

Luggage has been thrown around, flight attendants have had to duct-tape passengers to their seats, and many others have refused to wear their masks. Flying in 2021 has become increasingly stressful as reports of a record amount of badly-behaved passengers have led to $1 million in fines.

On Thursday, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced it has added more than $531,000 in fines against 34 passengers, bringing the year’s total to more than $1 million. The agency, which regulates air travel in the U.S., said since January 1, 2021, there have been 3,889 reports of “unruly behavior” from passengers. A majority of those reports are of passengers who refused to comply with the federal mask mandate on planes, according to the FAA.

The FAA has initiated 682 investigations in 2021, compared to 2019, when there were only 146 investigations.

Earlier this month, the FAA tasked airports with working closely with local law enforcement to prosecute the more serious cases of passenger outbursts since the agency doesn’t have the authority to do so.

Some of the FAA reports include pilots being forced to make emergency landings to remove the aggressive and sometimes violent passengers. In one instance, a passenger threw his carry-on luggage at other people, laid in the aisle, and at one point stuck his head up between a flight attendant’s legs. Another passenger on a Frontier Airlines flight assaulted a flight attendant in an attempt to get to the flight deck. Others were reported to have assaulted other passengers or shouted obscenities when asked to put on a mask.

Flight attendants have started taking self-defense classes to handle the unprecedented amount of aggressive passengers as part of a program with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The Biden administration and the TSA confirmed this week that it would be extending the federal mask mandate until January 2022 to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Other forms of public transportation including trains and buses will also have to follow the federal requirement.

Mask mandates have become an increasingly contentious issue in the U.S. as some politicians and leaders have pushed the agenda that they hinder a person’s freedom, despite health experts saying a facial covering is an easy way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The FAA launched a social media campaign to promote safety on planes and encourage passengers to follow the rules. The agency has even created memes to encourage people to avoid massive fines.