(NewsNation Now) — Federal officials said Monday they are pursuing civil penalties against two more passengers for interfering with airline crews, the latest in a surge of such cases in recent months.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it is maintaining a zero-tolerance stance against unruly passengers.
“If you disrupt a flight with threatening or intimidating or violent behavior, you’ll face a civil penalty from the FAA of up to $35,000 and possible imprisonment as well,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.
Edward Schmitz said things went as expected on this first flight since the pandemic.
“I figured there’d be people with their mask below their nose and that kind of stuff and that’s what happened. Nobody made a big deal about it, the flight attendants said put your mask on and people did, but it just happened over and over again and I’d look at them and go, ‘oh,'” Schmitz explained.
Bea Collins has flown every month for work throughout the pandemic and says mask compliance is generally high.
“It does not surprise me because some people will fight about the situation just because they’re so stressed out. But in reality, masks protect you and they protect other people, and I have no issue with wearing a mask whatsoever,” Collins said.
But with more Americans vaccinated, there are more people traveling in U.S. airports, tempers have been flaring among flyers.
The most recent cases involve a passenger who refused to wear a face mask, which is required by federal regulation, and another who cursed flight attendants and the captain after boarding a plane.
The Federal Aviation Administration says it has received 1,300 complaints from airlines about disruptive passengers this year and has announced proposed civil penalties — some topping $30,000 — against more than a dozen passengers in recent weeks. The passengers can protest the penalties.
The agency said Monday it will seek a $10,500 fine against a passenger on a JetBlue Airways flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Los Angeles in December. The FAA said the man repeatedly ignored orders to wear a mask, then coughed and blew his nose into a blanket.
The FAA proposed a $9,000 fine against a passenger who boarded a JetBlue flight from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, in March. The man slammed overhead bins and shouted profanities at flight attendants and the captain before law enforcement escorted him out of the terminal, the FAA said.
The new cases came just three days after the FAA announced potential fines against four other passengers. None of the individuals have been identified.
Under its zero-tolerance policy announced in January, the FAA says it no longer warns or counsels unruly passengers, it jumps straight to enforcement action. The FAA has power to levy civil penalties but is letting law enforcement decide whether to seek criminal charges against passengers.
The FAA says it started enforcement action against more than 1,300 passengers during the past 10 years.
U.S. airlines, which imposed their own face-mask requirements before the government did, have temporarily banned at least 3,000 people for refusing to cover their faces.