Two passengers aboard an Indianapolis flight were among several at airports around the country facing fines for inappropriate behavior on planes.
Most of the unruly behavior involved passengers who ignored the federal facemask policy in disruptive ways, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Since Jan. 1, the FAA has received 3,271 reports of unruly behavior by passengers, including 2,475 reports of people who refused to comply with mask orders. The agency identified potential violations in 540 cases and initiated “enforcement action” in 83 of them.
In all, the FAA has proposed fines of $682,000 against unruly air travelers.
In the Indianapolis case, the FAA said two passengers on a Republic Airlines flight from Indy to Philadelphia repeatedly ignored mask rules prior to boarding and during the boarding process.
“The passenger and members of her travel party were also playing loud, obscene music and refusing to wear their masks during the preflight safety announcements,” the FAA said.
When told to settle down and wear their masks properly, the women “continued to play loud, obscene music” and used obscene language against flight attendants and passengers. The plane, which had been taxiing, returned to the gate after the captain was notified of the disruptive behavior.
When the captain informed the passenger that she was being removed from the flight, she argued and again used obscene language. The woman then punched a female passenger, who was seated in front of her holding a baby, in the back of the head.
The FAA said the incident happened on Feb. 19, 2021. The agency levied a fine of $18,500 against the passenger. A woman traveling with her exhibited similar behavior during the flight and was fined $10,000, according to the FAA.
Similar scenes played out on other flights around the country. Here are a few examples:
- $21,500 against a passenger on a Dec. 27, 2020, Frontier Airlines flight from Nashville, Tenn., to Orlando, Fla. The FAA alleges the passenger drank alcohol that Frontier did not serve, which is against FAA regulations. He refused to comply with a flight attendant’s instruction to stop drinking the alcohol and wear a facemask. The FAA further alleges the passenger began fighting with the flight attendant and nearby passengers about the facemask policy. The flight attendant issued the passenger a “red card” for failing to comply with the facemask instructions, but he continued to argue with nearby passengers, ultimately striking the passenger next to him on the head. The flight attendant reseated him in another row, notified the captain of the disturbance, and requested law enforcement to meet him at the gate upon arrival.
- $17,000 against a passenger on a Jan. 25, 2021, Frontier Airlines flight from St. Louis, Mo., to Las Vegas, Nev. The FAA alleges the passenger refused to wear his facemask during the boarding process despite direct instruction from flight attendants to do so. Furthermore, the flight attendant had to pause the preflight safety demonstration twice to tell him to hang up his phone, put it on airplane mode, and wear his mask. During the flight, a flight attendant instructed him a second time to wear his mask. During the final descent, the passenger unbuckled his seatbelt, stood up, and moved to a different seat closer to the front of the aircraft. He ignored crew instructions that it was unsafe to be unbuckled and move about the cabin at that time.
- $13,000 against a passenger on a Jan. 29, 2021, Frontier Airlines flight from San Diego, Calif., to Las Vegas, Nev. The FAA alleges the passenger repeatedly removed her facemask and ignored crew instruction to wear it properly. The FAA further alleges that the passenger drank alcohol that Frontier didn’t serve, which is against FAA regulation.
- $10,500 against a passenger on a Feb. 27, 2021, Allegiant Air flight from Provo, Utah, to Mesa, Ariz. The FAA alleges the passenger refused to wear his facemask over his mouth and nose throughout the flight. Flight attendants instructed him seven separate times to wear his facemask properly, and each time he moved it off of his nose after the flight attendant walked away. When told that he needed to cooperate and provide information to fill out a passenger disturbance report, he argued with the flight attendant, refused to provide his identification, said he would continue to pull his facemask down, and claimed that it was fine just over his mouth. After the plane landed, he approached a flight attendant from behind as she prepared to open the cabin door and touched her. He stated that she was being aggressive about the facemask policy and got very close to her while complaining about her enforcement of the policy. This behavior intimidated the flight attendant and caused her to cry.
- $10,500 against a passenger on a Jan. 23, 2021, Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle, Wash., to Ketchikan, Alaska. The FAA alleges that as the flight was preparing to depart from the gate, the passenger made a 911 call reporting that the aircraft was being hijacked. He told the 911 dispatcher that a man was holding up a flight attendant at knifepoint near the front of the aircraft and repeatedly asked the dispatcher to stop the flight. While the aircraft was taxiing to the runway, he left his seat twice to enter the lavatory despite flight attendant instructions to stay seated. Due to the 911 calls, the pilots taxied the aircraft to a cargo ramp where law enforcement met the flight. Law enforcement boarded the aircraft armed with rifles and evacuated passengers and crew. While at the cargo ramp, the passenger called the FBI and made mention of a bomb. The aircraft was temporarily taken out of service for bomb screening. Law enforcement also screened all passengers and crew as a result of the passenger’s comments. All of the passenger’s claims were false and resulted in a multi-hour delay of the flight.
- $10,500 against a passenger on a Dec. 19, 2020, Allegiant Air flight from Syracuse, N.Y., to Punta Gorda, Fla. The FAA alleges that while the fasten-seatbelt sign was on during a period of moderate turbulence, the passenger got out of his seat to use the lavatory. When flight attendants told him it was unsafe to do so, he argued that he was drinking at the airport for five hours prior to the flight. Flight attendants allowed him to use the lavatory, but upon exiting, he nearly fell on the flight attendants three times and argued with them about being allowed out of his seat. He was not wearing his facemask, and flight attendants reminded him to wear it several times. After flight attendants got him in his seat, he began vaping despite flight attendant instructions to stop. Throughout the rest of the flight he continued to vape, not wear his facemask, and get out of his seat. The captain called for law enforcement to meet the passenger at the gate.
- $7,500 against a passenger on a Feb. 25, 2021, Southwest Airlines flight from Denver, Colo., to Los Angeles, Calif. The FAA alleges that upon boarding, flight attendants instructed the passenger twice to wear his facemask properly. He moved it below his nose and mouth both times. A Southwest Airlines customer service supervisor boarded the aircraft to speak with him about his non-compliance and provided him a facemask that would fit properly after he told flight attendants that his mask was broken. As the supervisor left, he again pulled his facemask below his nose and mouth. The supervisor returned and asked him to get off the aircraft, but the passenger refused. As a result, the airline had every passenger deplane. The non-compliant passenger was not allowed to reboard. His actions caused the flight to be delayed by 38 minutes.
The passengers have 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.
The FAA said it’s “strictly enforcing a zero-tolerance policy” for people who disrupt flights and fail to obey flight crew instructions.
The federal mask mandate for travel on planes, buses, train and other forms of public transportation remains in effect. It also applies to transportation hubs such as airports and stations.