In January, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) introduced a new zero-tolerance policy for air travelers that could face jail time and / or a fine of up to $ 35,000 for improper behavior on airplanes.
There’s an update on this – not only is this policy expanding, but the FAA has done a phenomenal job of enforcing it.
FAA threatens jail and fines for unruly passengers
In January, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson signed an order establishing a tougher law enforcement policy against passenger misconduct following recent events. This follows “a worrying increase in incidents of passengers disrupting flights with threatening or violent behavior” due to passenger refusal to wear masks and violence (at the time) in the US Capitol.
With this FAA guideline:
- Passengers who disturb, physically attack or threaten to physically attack the flight crew or other people on an aircraft face more severe penalties
- These penalties include fines of up to $ 35,000 and / or imprisonment
When the policy was first introduced, it was only supposed to be in effect until March 30, 2021, although there is an update on that – the FAA’s zero tolerance policy will be extended for at least as long as the federal mask mandate exists to travel.
How is FAA’s policy different from previous policy? The FAA has addressed recalcitrant passenger incidents primarily through warning and advice. These cases are no longer treated this way, and the agency is pursuing law enforcement proceedings against misbehaving passengers.
It is important to note that the FAA does not have an aviation safety regulator or no-fly lists, but rather that the FAA works closely with federal law enforcement and national security partners on reported security threats that affect aviation safety. By the time this policy was introduced, the FAA had taken more than 1,300 enforcement actions against recalcitrant passengers in the past decade.
The FAA enforced this policy
When the FAA first introduced this policy earlier this year, I was skeptical whether all of this was being talked about or whether there would be action behind it. Even taking the events of the past few months and the coronavirus out of the equation, I absolutely think we need to see stricter legal enforcement of passenger behavior on airplanes.
It’s amazing how often great fights break out in airplanes and no one is charged. There is a time and a place for it – actually no, there really isn’t any – but an airplane in particular is not the time or the place for such behavior.
Now that the directive has been in force for a few months, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised by the enforcement that we have seen. The agency has now taken action against more than a few passengers, and fines have generally been in the tens of thousands of dollars. That only seems fair considering how some passengers behaved.
US airlines have reported more than 500 recalcitrant passengers to the FAA since late December alone, and the agency is going through the cases one by one.
However, will this deter bad behavior?
Perhaps the biggest question is whether the fear of harsher punishment discourages this type of behavior:
- When it comes to masks, a big part of the problem is that the people who cause problems believe they are doing the right thing and being patriotic by standing up for their “freedoms” and “God’s respiratory system.”
- When it comes to the baseless fistfights we see on airplanes, I feel like there is generally not much thought going on there
Time will tell if this leads to a reduction in these types of incidents.
In early 2021, the FAA introduced a new zero tolerance policy for unruly behavior on airplanes, punishing and detaining passengers for bad behavior. This happens at a time of high voltage in airplanes.
Although I was skeptical at first, I was impressed with the enforcement actions the agency has taken so far. We hope this becomes a deterrent over time.
What do you think of the FAA’s zero tolerance policy?