The FAA announced they will extend its stricter enforcement against unruly passengers, after receiving more than 500 reports of misbehaving passengers since December alone. The majority of cases stemming from a passenger refusing to wear a mask.
"The number of cases we're seeing is still far too high, and it tells us urgent action continues to be required," FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said.
On Wednesday, the agency announced two civil penalties against two passengers who refused to wear face masks. The fines are $20,000 for one and $12,250 for the other, based on other unruly behavior the passengers displayed during two separate incidents at the end of December.
The FAA said they are currently looking into 450 cases of unruly passengers, and have started enforcement action in about 20 of them so far.
"I have decided to extend the FAA's unruly-passenger zero-tolerance policy as we continue to do everything we can to confront the pandemic," Dickson said in a statement. "The policy directs our safety inspectors and attorneys to take strong enforcement action against any passenger who disrupts or threatens the safety of a flight, with penalties ranging from fines to jail time."
Dickson said he is directing Federal Aviation Administration officials to consider both civil fines and criminal charges for unruly passengers.
Under the stricter enforcement, at least six fines have been imposed by the FAA on unruly passengers, including the two announced Wednesday. The largest so far being $27,500.
Many complaints are for passengers not complying with mask requirements, in addition, some are also cited for assaulting flight attendants, shouting obscenities and drinking unapproved alcohol onboard.
Airlines are also taking steps against unruly passengers, banning them from flying. Delta says they have banned more than 450 passengers during the pandemic for not complying with the mask requirement.
The increased enforcement will remain in place until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifts their order requiring face masks to be worn on mass transit and commercial travel.
Meanwhile, the Transportation Safety Administration is reporting pandemic-era records in the number of travelers through America’s airports. Between Thursday and Sunday, more than 5.2 million Americans went through airport security.