A sharp increase in rowdy passengers on US flights this year, for a variety of reasons, has resulted in fines totalling more than $1 million, and counting.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, nearly 4,000 disruptive passengers have received civil penalties since January.
According to the agency’s report, the amount includes $531,500 in fines levied against 34 passengers in particular.
“Today’s fines are part of the agency’s Zero Tolerance campaign against unruly passenger behavior,” the FAA said in a statement.
“Since Jan. 1, 2021, the FAA has received approximately 3,889 reports of unruly behavior by passengers, including about 2,867 reports of passengers refusing to comply with the federal face mask mandate.”
Other unruly passengers early this year and in late 2020 were political in nature and typically involved supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Reasons for the fines have varied and include passengers threatening to kill each other, arguing with family members or flight attendants, vaping, drinking prohibited alcohol, smoking and assault, the FAA said.
The largest single fine was $45,000 given to a passenger on a flight in May from New York City to Florida who threw items at other travelers, refused to stay seated and put his head up a flight attendant’s dress.
The FAA said a $42,000 fine was given to another passenger on a flight to San Francisco, for “interfering with crewmembers after failing to comply with the facemask mandate; making non-consensual physical contact with another passenger; throwing a playing card at a passenger and threatening him with physical harm; making stabbing gestures towards certain passengers; and snorting what appeared to be cocaine from a plastic bag.”
“I hope this jet [crap] crashes,” shouted another passenger who was removed from a flight in February.
The announcement comes two days after the Transportation Security Administration extended the nationwide mask requirement for all commercial flights in the United States until at least January.
According to the FAA, penalised passengers have 30 days to reply to their penalty.