FAA proposes $225K in new fines against passengers, including one who ‘snatched’ cookies from another traveler

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Egregious examples of bad behavior described by the FAA on Wednesday concerned passengers yelling profanities, using obscene gestures, making threats to flight crew, refusing to abide by mask mandates, and physically assaulting or hurting flight attendants. (Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed $225,287 in new fines for an additional 10 airline passengers accused of engaging in unruly or violent behavior on recent flights — including one passenger who “snatched” a package of cookies from a nearby traveler during a fist-throwing fit.

The new cases, announced Wednesday, further highlight the increased rate of in-flight incidents reported to the FAA since Jan. 1, 2021.

Among the cases described on Wednesday, the FAA levied a fine of $32,000 to a single Horizon Air passenger who refused to follow instructions on a flight from Austin, Texas, to San Francisco, and then “punched and screamed at her husband and son, repeatedly” before throwing trash at a crew member. The FAA noted that she also “snatched cookies from a nearby passenger” during the incident.

Other egregious examples of bad behavior described by the FAA concerned passengers yelling profanities, using obscene gestures, making threats to flight crew, refusing to abide by mask mandates, and physically assaulting or hurting flight attendants. In one particular case, a flight attendant needed medical attention after being punched on a Southwest Airlines flight from New York to Chicago.

Fines for each passenger ranged from $9,000 to $32,000. The FAA currently has the authority to propose civil penalties of up to $37,000 for each violation.

The FAA has so far proposed collective fines of over $1.3 million since enacting its zero-tolerance policy for unruly passengers in January. At the time, the FAA had noted a “disturbing increase” in disruptive behavior, specifically noting a “proliferation” of such conduct “following the January 6, 2021 violence at the U.S. Capitol,” according to an order signed by Dickson.

In total, the FAA has received 5,114 reports of unruly behavior on flights in 2021 alone, including 3,710 described as “mask-related.” The agency has taken civil enforcement action — aka, levying fines — against 239.

In addition to fines, the FAA has also referred 37 of its “most serious” cases to the FBI for review.

“Let this serve both as a warning and a deterrent: If you disrupt a flight, you risk not just fines from the FAA but federal criminal prosecution as well,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson in a joint statement issued by the FAA and FBI last week.

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