<p>The largest fine was for an incident on an American Airlines flight last July</p>

The largest fine was for an incident on an American Airlines flight last July

Plane passengers who spat at and headbutted crew prompt FAA to propose biggest ever fines for unruly behaviour

Both fines exceed $70,000

Lucy Thackray
Monday 11 April 2022 11:28
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The US’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed its two largest fines to date - one for a passenger who spat at and headbutted cabin crew, the other for a customer who bit a fellow passenger and tried to open the cabin door mid-flight.

The fines - $81,950 (£62,915) and $77,272 (£59,324) respectively - were proposed by the aviation body on Friday for two separate unruly passenger incidents which happened last July.

The passenger with the biggest fine is accused of striking a flight attendant on the head, spitting at crew, headbutting a member of staff and trying to open the cabin door mid-flight.

She had reportedly fallen in the plane aisle, and when a flight attendant offered to help her, the passenger ”threatened to hurt” her, pushed her out of the way, and tried to open the door.

The passenger, who was on an American Airlines flight from Dallas Fort Worth, persisted in trying to kick and hit flight attendants even after being put in flexible handcuffs.

She was arrested after the flight landed in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The passenger with the slightly smaller fine was disruptive on a Delta Air Lines flight from Las Vegas to Atlanta - after trying to “hug and kiss” a fellow passenger, they tried to exit the plane mid-flight, and bit another customer “multiple times”.

Neither person was identified by the FAA during proceedings. The Administration proposes fines for unruly airline passengers based on their behaviour and any exculpatory evidence, after which the passenger has 30 days to respond.

It has imposed nearly $2m in penalties since 1 January 2022, with 1,081 unruly passenger reports having been made between then and 4 April.

“Generally, the penalty for each violation ranges from $1,100 to $27,500, depending on the provision violated and the category of the alleged violator,” says the FAA’s website description of its civil penalty actions.

Unruly passenger incidents rose sharply during the Covid-19 pandemic, with many disruptive traveller incidents fuelled by disagreements over mask-wearing.

The FAA imposed a “zero tolerance policy” on disruptive passengers in January 2021, with administrator Steve Dickson telling press last month that he wants it to remain in place indefinitely.

“The FAA’s Zero Tolerance policy against unruly passenger behaviour and its public awareness campaign has decreased the rate of unruly incidents by nearly 60 oer cent,” said the FAA in its statement on Friday.

“But as today’s announcement demonstrates, more work remains.”

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