The rapid growth in the number of unruly, disruptive or downright violent passengers on board aircraft was, and continues to be, a hot topic in the airline business.
And theIt was, and still is, alarming. taken by other passengers show fights on board, flight attendants being assaulted, other passengers being beaten, violators often being duct-taped to their seats, and law enforcement officers escorting passengers off planes. Many incidents result in the diversion of flights.
In 2021, the number of these incidents exceeded 6,000. In 2022, although the figures have decreased, they are still more than 10 times higher than in past decades. In 1995, there were 146 reports of rogue airline passengers. So far in 2022, the The Federal Aviation Administration has received 1,944 reports.
It is against federal law to “assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crew member in the performance of his or her duties aboard an operating aircraft,” according to federal regulations.
Historically, the FAA has closed these cases with legal action; civil penalties; administrative action, which are warning notices; enforcement action, which is advice, or no action if there is insufficient evidence of a regulatory violation or a violation of federal law. However, under the FAA’s current zero-tolerance policy toward unruly passengers, implemented in 2021, the agency has issued no warning notices or advisory orders.
As part of its most recent reauthorization in 2018, the FAA can propose up to $37,000 per violation for unruly passenger cases. Previously, the maximum civil penalty per violation was $25,000. An incident can result in multiple violations.
Of those reports, 673 were investigated by the authorities and 460 enforcement action cases were initiated. But despite the obvious violations of the law by passengers, both official and industry sources told CBS News that very few passengers have been arrested and even fewer have been fined or jailed.
The key word here is “propose”. In almost all cases, the sources said, the full amount of the fines proposed by the FAA is never paid in full, and in many cases, no fines are paid at all.
There are exceptions, of course.
A New York woman has been sentenced to four months in prison after her use of racial slurs sparked an argument during a flight to Los Angeles, prompting the pilot to divert the plane to Phoenix.
Kelly Pichardo, 32, of the Bronx, New York, was sentenced to four months in prison and 36 months of supervised release after pleading guilty tomembers Ordered to pay $9,123 in restitution to American Airlines.
In another case, Vyvianna M. Quinonez, 29, of Sacramento,nearly $26,000 in restitution and a $7,500 fine for an attack on board, during which , bleeding his face and chipping three of his teeth. Quinonez was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.
And in April, the FAA proposed: $81,950 from a female passenger who had to be taped to her seat on an American Airlines flight to Charlotte in July 2021. Her case is still pending.
In 2021 and 2022, several airlines, including United and Delta, announced that unruly passengers would be banned from their flights due to their behavior. The announcements inferred that the bans would be for life.
But in April, once the federal mask mandate was lifted, those carriers quietly invited those passengers back into the friendly skies.
Delta said in April that it would befor customers who demonstrated “an understanding of their expected behavior when flying with us.” This new forgiveness policy is being applied to those riders who were banned for “mask breach”. Delta’s announcement came a day after United made a similar one. American and Alaska Airlines followed suit.
That’s for the permanent no-fly list, though passengers who had behaved violently are still on those airline lists, which are different from the federal terrorism watchdog no-fly list.
And how many people are still on those lists and? Nobody knows.