Jail time and fines for unruly passengers, FAA warns

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As airlines prepare for possible unrest ahead of US elect-president’s Joe Biden’s inauguration, the Federal Aviation Administration warns air travelers of jail times and fines.

Following the disruptions caused by passengers traveling after the US Capitol coup attempt on January 6, 2021, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Steve Dickson indicated the agency’s preparedness to react to flight safety rules violations. The administrator warned air travelers that penalties could range from fines of up to $35,000 to jail time.

“As a former airline captain, I can attest from firsthand experience that the cabin crew’s primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of all passengers,” Dickson said in a statement. “I expect all passengers to follow crew member instructions, which are in place for their safety and the safety of flight,” he added.

On January 11, 2021, two senior House Democrats Peter DeFazio and Rick Larsen urged the FAA to take additional steps to prevent unruly passengers from traveling to interfere with the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

“We respectfully urge the FAA and the aviation community to think creatively on what authorities or additional measures will reduce the possibility of unruly and disruptive behavior on aircraft,” wrote DeFazio and Larsen in a letter to the FAA’s Administrator Steve Dickson..

The US Capitol riots in Washington D.C. erupted on January 6, 2021. Following disruptive passenger behavior on flights out of the US capital, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), which represents around 50,000 cabin crew members at more than a dozen US airlines, called for a zero-tolerance policy for such incidents. American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) and Delta Air Lines have increased safety measures in fear of disruptions on flights due to aggressive passengers.   

“Passengers should expect to see a heightened law enforcement presence from now through the inauguration,” said Christina Saull, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which manages Reagan National (DCA) and Dulles International (IAD) airports.

In response to the riot, all Trump appointees at the FAA and the US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced their resignations, effective January 11, 2021. 


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