FAA maintains zero tolerance for unruly passengers even after mask ruling

Passengers wearing protective masks board a Boeing Co. 737-800 operated by Avelo Airlines before the airline’s inaugural flight at Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) in Burbank, California, United States, Wednesday, April 28, 2021.

Bing Guan | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration is maintaining its zero-tolerance policy for unruly passenger behavior even after a federal judge struck down the Biden administration’s mask requirements for public transportation this week.

After the Transportation Security Administration said the mask-mandate policy would no longer be enforced, airlines announced that masks would become optional, effective immediately.

Disputes over masks accounted for more than 70% of the record 5,981 reports of disruptive passengers the FAA received last year.

The FAA introduced the zero tolerance policy in January 2021 in response to an increase in reports of unruly travelers from airlines and flight attendants. This policy provides for heavy fines and potential criminal prosecution for such behavior that previously might have triggered warnings or advice.

Flight attendants and their unions have reported an increase in verbal abuse and physical assaults from passengers during the pandemic.

The agency referred 80 cases to the FBI, he said.

“Behaving unsafely on an airplane will cost you dearly, that’s a promise,” Acting FAA Administrator Bill Nolen said in a statement. “Dangerous behaviors simply don’t work and maintaining our zero tolerance policy will help us continue to make progress in preventing and punishing these behaviors.”

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