FAA Proposes Largest-Ever Fines Totaling Over $150K for 2 Unruly Passengers

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed record high fines against two passengers accused of unruly behavior on flights last year, the agency announced Friday.

The proposed fines of $81,950 and $77,272 total more than $150,000, making up a large chunk of the roughly $2 million in fines the FAA has proposed since the start of this year. The $81,950 fine was suggested for a passenger on a July 7, 2021, American Airlines flight, while the $77,272 fine was suggested for a passenger on a July 16, 2021, Delta Air Lines flight, according to the agency.

There have been many reports of unruly passengers on airline flights in the past year, especially in relation to mandatory masking for protection against COVID-19. In some of the instances, including in the two incidents related to the FAA's new proposed fines, the unruly behavior has turned violent.

"If you are on an airplane, don't be a jerk and don't endanger the flight crews and fellow passengers. If you do, you will be fined by the FAA," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on The View on Friday while announcing the proposed fines.

The FAA did not identify either of the two passengers by name but referred to them as women. Both passengers have 30 days after receiving the letter from the FAA to respond, the agency said in a press release.

FAA Passenger Fines
The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed record high fines against two passengers accused of unruly behavior on flights last year, the agency announced Friday. One of the two allegedly unruly passengers was on a July 7, 2021, American Airlines flight. Above, American Airlines planes are seen at Los Angeles International Airport on February 28. Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

The agency alleged that the American Airlines passenger, who was traveling from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Texas to Charlotte, North Carolina, threatened to hurt a flight attendant that offered to help her after she fell into the plane's aisle.

The passenger allegedly pushed the flight attendant to the side and then attempted to open the cabin door. As two flight attendants tried to restrain her, she repeatedly hit one of them on the head, the FAA said.

When they had successfully restrained the passenger in flex cuffs, she allegedly continued to act violently by headbutting, biting, spitting at and attempting to kick the flight crew and fellow passengers. She was apprehended by law enforcement when the flight reached Charlotte, the FAA added.

The Delta passenger, who was traveling from Las Vegas to Atlanta, allegedly tried to kiss and hug a fellow passenger who was in the seat beside her.

She then walked to the front of the plane and tried to exit while the flight was in progress and refused to go back to her seat, the FAA said. She allegedly bit another passenger several times, forcing the flight crew to physically restrain her.

"Delta has zero tolerance for unruly behavior at our airports and on our flights as nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and people," Delta said in a statement to Newsweek. "We will continue to report unruly behavior to the TSA [Transportation Security Administration] and FAA as part of their enforcement actions."

The FAA said in the release that its public awareness campaign and zero tolerance policy for unruly passenger behavior have caused the rate of incidents to go down by 60 percent, but the announcement on Friday shows that "more work remains."

A male passenger was recently arrested after an April 2 flight in which he allegedly exposed himself and masturbated while onboard, and a woman was escorted off a plane after "taking a stand" by refusing to wear a mask.

Newsweek reached out to American Airlines for comment.

Update 4/8/22, 3:15 p.m. ET: This story was updated with additional information and background.