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FAA proposes more than $60,000 in fines against unruly passengers amid mask fights

Five unruly passengers are facing fines totaling more than $60,000 from the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency announced Monday.

The passengers face fines of $9,000 to $15,000 for interfering with flight attendants who either instructed them to obey cabin crew instructions or follow federal regulations like wearing a mask, the U.S. Department of Transportation agency said in a release. Two of the passengers are accused of assaulting flight attendants on different flights.

Oct. 5, 202001:44

The most extreme incident happened on a JetBlue flight from Miami to Los Angeles on Feb. 22 when a passenger in the main cabin received a glass of champagne, headset and meal from a passenger in the first-class section, according to the FAA.

After a flight attendant retrieved the items and returned them, the main cabin passenger allegedly “yelled obscenities,” followed him to first-class and assaulted the steward with her body, “pushing him into the lavatory,” the agency said. The flight was diverted to Austin, Texas, where the main-cabin passenger was removed and now faces a fine of $15,000.

Another passenger aboard an Alaska Airlines flight from Dulles, Virginia, to SeaTac, Washington, in January, faces a fine of $15,000 after allegedly pushing and shoving a flight attendant who was walking down the aisle to check for mask-wearing travelers, the FAA said.

And in another January incident, one passenger on a JetBlue flight from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Los Angeles, allegedly talked on his phone and drank his own alcohol — both of which are prohibited during a flight, according to the FAA. The passenger, who faces a fine of $15,000, “repeatedly yelled” at the flight attendant who told him the activities were not allowed.

The other two incidents involved passengers who refused to comply with the federal mask mandate.

The FAA did not identify the five individuals, but all of the incidents violated federal law, the agency said. Travelers are still required to wear a mask on public transportation, including planes, buses and trains, as well as transportation hubs like airports and stations, amid the pandemic.

This month, the FAA warned air travelers that there was a spike in unruly or dangerous behavior aboard passenger planes.

In a typical year, the agency sees 100 to 150 formal cases of bad passenger behavior. But since the start of this year, that number has jumped to 2,500, including about 1,900 passengers who refused to comply with the federal mask mandate, according to the FAA.