FAA to impose $225,287 against 10 passengers for alleged assaults

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed that ten airline passengers be fined $225,287 in civil penalties for alleged unruly behavior involving physical assault.

In a press statement dated November 10, 2021, the FAA said that since January 1, 2021, it has received more than 100 reports of passenger disturbances involving physical assault.

US Federal law prohibits passengers from assaulting fellow passengers or crew aboard a flight. 

In September 2021, the FAA urged passenger airlines to take more serious action in a bid to curb the spike in unruly passenger behavior.  Early this year, the organization launched a Zero Tolerance campaign as a measure to reduce violent incidents. The campaign included airport digital signage in multiple languages.


FAA’s Zero Tolerance campaign. Image from faa.gov

The fines levied are part of the FAA’s Zero Tolerance campaign against unruly passenger behavior. The FAA lacks criminal prosecutorial authority but has referred cases to the Department of Justice where the evidence supports criminal review. 

The cases that make up the majority of the $225,287 penalties include:

  • $32,000 against a passenger on a May 18, 2021, Horizon Air flight from Austin to San Francisco. The FAA alleges the passenger did not follow crew instruction to fasten her seatbelt. She repeatedly punched and screamed at her husband and son, diverting flight attendants from their duties. She threw trash at a flight attendant, and snatched cookies from a nearby passenger. 

  • $26,787 against a passenger on a May 5, 2021, Southwest Airlines (LUV) flight from New York City to Chicago. The FAA alleges that during final descent, and despite crew instruction to remain seated, the passenger left his seat and attempted to enter the cockpit. After he returned to his seat, he incorrectly thought the aircraft was already at the gate and attempted to remove his luggage from the overhead bin. While the aircraft braked during touchdown, flight attendants attempted to hold him down to keep him from injuring himself. He started punching one of the flight attendants, who later on required medical attention. Law enforcement met the passenger at the arrival gate. 

  • $25,000 against a passenger on February 3, 2021, Southwest Airlines (LUV) flight from Boston to Chicago. The FAA alleges the passenger refused crew instruction to stow her carry-on luggage in the overhead bin. After speaking to ground crew and re-boarding the flight, the passenger sat in a seat, held onto the armrest, shouted loudly and aggressively, and used derogatory language and obscene gestures towards crewmembers. As she disembarked, she broke loose from a travel companion’s grip and spat on a crewmember. Police met her at the gate. 

  • $24,000 against a passenger on a March 28, 2021, Southwest Airlines (LUV) flight from New Orleans to Baltimore. The FAA alleges that a flight attendant instructed her to comply with the facemask policy. As the flight attendant continued trash pick-up, she intentionally elbowed him in the side and kicked him. This behavior was reported to the captain who locked down the cockpit and requested law enforcement to meet the woman at the gate. 


FAA’s Zero Tolerance campaign. Image from faa.gov

Updated and more detailed information on these cases can be viewed at the FAA’s unruly passengers statistics page.

The passengers, whom the FAA have not identified, have 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.


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