FAA issues $500,000 in fines to unruly passengers

Alcohol, drugs and, for the most part, disputes over mask wearing are fueling an unprecedented caseload of unruly passengers, prompting the Federal Aviation Authority on Thursday to issue more than $500,000 in fines.

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A passenger refused to stay seated, threw a carry-on bag at another person, then grabbed a flight attendant by the ankles and put his head up her skirt on a May 24 jetBlue Airways flight from New York to Florida. The passenger was put in restraints, removed from the flight during an emergency landing in Richmond, Virginia, and is now facing a $45,000 fine.

In another case, a passenger refused to wear a mask, threw playing cards at another passenger and touched another person without consent on a May 16 jetBlue flight from Queens, New York, to San Francisco. The passenger was later seen snorting a white powder believed to be cocaine from a small plastic bag, which was confiscated by the flight crew. The passenger became increasingly irate and was removed from the flight after an emergency landing in Minneapolis. He is now facing a $42,000 fine.

A Southwest Airlines passenger was banned from the carrier after a Jan. 2 flight from Orlando to Kansas City, Missouri, after making threats and assaulting another passenger. He is facing a $32,500 fine.

These are three of the 34 passengers the agency said it is proposing $531,545 in fines to. They include 22 incidents for passengers not adhering to federal mask rules, which mandate riders on airplanes, trains and buses wear a face covering. The Transportation Security Administration on Tuesday extended the requirement, Reuters reported.

The agency is dealing with an increase in cases amid more aggressive behavior by passengers.

The FAA has recorded 3,889 cases of unruly passengers, with 2,867 incidents this year because of disputes over wearing a mask. The agency has fined passengers more than $1 million. Typically, the FAA might have 100 to 150 bad passenger cases in a year, NBC News reported.