The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Wednesday the rate of unruly air passenger incidents dropped to its lowest level since late 2020 after a U.S. judge ended a government transportation mask mandate on April 18.
The FAA said in the week ending April 24, there were 1.9 reported incidents per 10,000 flights, compared to 4.4 reported incidents per 10,000 flights in the prior week. The FAA said previously about 70% of reported incidents involved the enforcement of masking rules.
The FAA said in the average rate in the last three months of 2020 was 2.45 incidents per 10,000 flights. Some airline officials had predicted the number of unruly passenger incidents would fall sharply when the mandate was lifted.
Then-FAA Administrator Steve Dickson first issued a zero-tolerance mandate when unruly passenger incidents escalated around the time of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Last month, the FAA said that zero-tolerance policy will become permanent even after the mask mandate was lifted.
Under the policy, the FAA issues fines to passengers for unruly behavior instead of warning letters or counseling.
Since January 2021, the FAA has proposed fines totaling about $7 million for disruptive passengers.
Two new fines issued in April were the highest yet, including an $81,950 fine for an American Airlines passenger on a July flight in which a passenger allegedly pushed a “flight attendant aside and tried to open the cabin door.” The FAA said, “After the passenger was restrained in flex cuffs, she spit at, headbutted, bit and tried to kick the crew and other passengers.”
The FAA said since January 2021, there have been a record 7,200 unruly passenger incidents reported – and 70% involved the enforcement of masking rules.
The FAA said it has referred 80 unruly airplane passengers to the FBI for potential criminal prosecution.
Copyright 2022 Thomson/Reuters