There are new calls to crack down on unruly airline passengers after last week’s storming of the U.S. Capitol triggered tension on planes.
Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash) is pressuring the FAA to impose large fines on passengers who berate flight crews about mask policies.
Larsen chairs the aviation subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee, and co-signed a letter to the FAA chief, urging maximum fines of up to “$35,000 per violation-to deter unruly passengers from acting in such a manner.”
“These aren’t guidelines to follow, these are rules that carry with them penalties,” Larsen told KIRO 7.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also called for action.
“The insurrectionists who breached the U.S. Capitol fall under the definition of threats to the homeland and should be immediately added to the TSA no-fly list,” Schumer said.
Several airlines have had problems on planes in and out of Washington, D.C. in recent days.
On the day after the riot, Ruairi Ward was on Alaska Airlines flight 1085 from Washington-Dulles to Seattle with his wife and son the day after the Capitol riots, surrounded by people who refused to wear masks.
“It just went out the window. Nobody was wearing their mask properly surrounding me,” Ward said.
His four year old son, Pierce, has a rare eye disorder and is medically vulnerable.
His parents brought him to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for specialized treatment.
“My wife was crying, she was in tears because we have for this whole time been very safe and careful because of all this,” Ward said.
Alaska Airlines said 16 passengers on that flight were so belligerent the airline banned them for at least as long as masks are required.
Ward says his family chose Alaska because of its strict COVID rules, which he says ultimately went unenforced when passengers wearing MAGA gear gave flight attendants a hard time.
“In the end they folded, and I think they let down the rest of the passengers who were compliant,” Ward said.
“We totally sympathize with that family, we know it was a horrible experience for them,” said Jeremy Horn, Director of Security for Alaska Airlines.
Horn said flight attendants did all they could to de-escalate the situation and the airline is now reviewing protocols to make sure flights around the inauguration stay peaceful.
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