Story at a glance
- Incidents including assaults and fights aboard airplanes have increased since the beginning of 2021.
- The FAA will impose fines, bans and charges on violators.
- Travel has yet to return to prepandemic levels.
On Monday, officials at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said that flight crews have recently seen a higher volume of poor behavior among passengers aboard flights.
The agency told NBC News that on average 100-150 cases of aggressive or disruptive passenger behavior are reported annually.
At the beginning of 2021, however, the number of reported cases skyrocketed to 1,300 — despite the airline industry having yet to book above prepandemic levels.
FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson said that some of this behavior includes refusal to follow the airline and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) policy and wear masks, assault fueled by inebriation, along with forms of “political intimidation and harassment of lawmakers.”
“It is not permissible and we will not tolerate interfering with a flight crew and the performance of their safety duties,” Dickson said. “Period.”
Multiple fights on passenger flights have been documented dating as far back as late 2020, primarily over passenger refusal to wear a mask, but other incidents include brawling over seating assignments.
Some incidents have been classified as assaults.
The airline industry is poised to rebound following a staggeringly difficult 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to cheap airfare along with more Americans receiving vaccinations and travel restrictions loosening.
Ahead of the return to prepandemic travel levels, the FAA, Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Air Marshals are reportedly poised to fine individuals up to $35,000 or impose lifetime bans on select airlines, in addition to potential criminal charges.