LOS ANGELES - The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration said on Monday that it has received approximately 3,000 reports of unruly behavior by airline passengers in 2021 alone.
The agency recently proposed civil penalties ranging from $7,500 to $15,500 against four airline passengers who allegedly interfered with flight attendants’ ability to do their jobs, despite being instructed to adhere to cabin policies and various other federal regulations.
The enforcement of the hefty fines is part of the FAA’s zero-tolerance police for what the agency describes as unruly and dangerous passengers.
"The FAA is strictly enforcing a zero-tolerance policy toward passengers who cause disturbances on flights or fail to obey flight crew instructions in violation of the FAA’s regulations or engage in conduct proscribed by federal law," the agency said in its May 10 press release.
Many passengers who have been fined by the FAA were typically involved in incidents in which they refused to follow guidelines by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on wearing face masks in public in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, which had claimed the lives of more than 600,000 Americans as of June 15.
One passenger is being fined $15,500 for an incident that occurred on Feb. 5, 2021, in which they were told more than 10 times to wear a face mask during the flight. The passenger reportedly refused to wear his mask and also drank mini alcohol bottles that were not served to him by the flight attendants, something the FAA said is against their regulations.
Another passenger is being fined more than $10,000 after he smoked an e-cigarette in the airplane bathroom, causing a smoke alarm to go off.
A separate incident was recently captured on video showing frightened Delta passengers on a flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta when an unruly passenger caused a disturbance in the middle of the journey, forcing an emergency landing.
Video footage recorded on June 11 on Delta Flight 1730 shows a dark cabin with several people standing near one of the plane exits where a commotion ensues.
A man can be heard saying, "Stop," as a woman yells, "Help! Help!" after a man appeared to jostle around, attempting to break free from the other passengers who were trying to get him under control.
The company confirmed the unruly passenger was not attempting to open the cabin door, but was positioned in front of the door when he became disruptive.
The investigation into this incident is ongoing, according to Delta.
In May, two airline passengers were slapped with separate fines totaling nearly $20,000 for unruly behavior after the FAA said they caused major flight disruptions.
One incident involved a passenger on a JetBlue flight on Dec. 27, 2020. The passenger was leaving Ft. Lauderdale International Airport bound for Los Angeles, but was allegedly abusive to airline workers who told him to wear a face mask.
"At one point, while not wearing a mask, he coughed and blew his nose into a blanket," the FAA alleged.
The agency said the passenger’s behavior was so disruptive that it "diverted flight crewmembers from their duties." That passenger is facing a fine of $10,500.
A separate incident on March 16 involved another JetBlue Airlines customer flying from Los Angeles to Newark Liberty International Airport.
The passenger allegedly acted in a disruptive manner when boarding the flight, according to the FAA.
"He yelled, slammed overhead bins, and shouted profanities at the cabin crew, including threatening to harass a flight attendant during the entire flight," the FAA wrote in a press release.
The FAA also alleged that the passenger shouted profanities at the flight’s captain.
This story was reported from Los Angeles. Catherine Park contributed.