The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it has received approximately 1,300 reports of unruly passengers from airlines since February, a statistic that far outpaces the number of cases of bad passenger behavior the agency has seen in the past.
Of the reported instances, the agency has so far identified potential violations in approximately 260 cases, an FAA spokesman told The Hill on Monday.
The spokesman added that the agency has initiated approximately 20 enforcement cases and has sent notices to the passengers. It is, however, preparing “a number of additional enforcement actions.”
In a normal year, the FAA would see between 100 and 150 formal cases of poor passenger behavior a year, NBC News reported on Monday. That number, however, has spiked since February, despite the fact that fewer people are traveling because of the pandemic.
According to NBC, the unruly behavior includes passengers refusing to comply with mask orders, drinking excessively and partaking in alleged physical or verbal assault, which the agency in part designates as political intimidation and harassment of lawmakers.
In March, a Colorado man was charged after he allegedly refused to wear a mask while onboard an Alaska Airlines flight and urinated in the cabin during an interaction with airline employees.
FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson, according to NBC News, said the surge of unruly passenger cases is “not permissible and we will not tolerate interfering with a flight crew and the performance of their safety duties.”
In March, the FAA extended its zero tolerance policy for bad behavior on flights. Under the policy, which was set to expire at the end of March, passengers can face fines of up to $35,000 and jail time for assaulting or threatening airline crew or passengers.
The Transportation Security Administration recently extended its mask mandate into September, requiring face coverings on airplanes, in airports, on buses and on railways.