FAA maintaining zero tolerance policy for unruly passengers as mask mandate falls


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on Wednesday that its zero tolerance policy for unruly passenger behavior would permanently remain in effect, just days after a federal judge in Florida struck down a federal transportation mask mandate.

The agency had first announced in January 2021 that it would no longer give out warnings to people who behaved poorly on planes, instead assessing them fines and other penalties. The measure came amid resistance from some on following coronavirus protocol, such as wearing a mask, on flights.

“Behaving dangerously on a plane will cost you; that’s a promise,” acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said in a statement. “Unsafe behavior simply does not fly and keeping our Zero Tolerance policy will help us continue making progress to prevent and punish this behavior.”   

In 2021 alone, the FAA reported close to 6,000 incidents of unruly passenger behavior, leading to 350 enforcement actions being initiated, according to FAA data.

Eighty cases of unruly behavior had been referred to the FBI for criminal review as of Feb. 16, the agency noted. 

Earlier this month, the FAA announced it had proposed its highest fines ever to two unruly passengers at close to $82,000 and $77,272.

The development comes two days after Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, a Trump appointee, rejected the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mask mandate pertaining to buses, planes and trains, arguing the order overstepped the CDC’s statutory authority.

Later on Monday, a Biden administration official said that the Transportation Security Administration would not be enforcing the mandate while other agencies deliberated on next steps. 

Tags Billy Nolen FAA Federal Aviation Administration
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