FAA Extends Zero-tolerance Policy for Unruly Passengers After More Than 500 Incidents Reported

Passengers on plane

The Federal Aviation Administration extended its zero-tolerance policy for unruly passengers this week after airlines reported more than 500 disruptive incidents since late December.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement on Tuesday that the decision was made to continue to crack down on unruly passengers as the "number of cases we're seeing is still far too high, and it tells us urgent action continues to be required."

Under the strict policy, which was first introduced in January and previously set to expire at the end of March, any passenger who "assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members" could face a fine as well as jail time.

Since late December, airlines have reported more than 500 cases of unruly passengers, many of which involved a passenger refusing to wear a face mask, The Associated Press reported. Of those, the FAA is currently reviewing more than 450 and has taken enforcement actions against about 20.

All travelers are required to wear masks on all forms of public transportation, including on planes and in airports, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The FAA's zero-tolerance directive will now remain in place as long as passengers are required to wear face masks, the wire service reported.

Last month, the FAA proposed fining a passenger $27,500 after they allegedly hit a flight attendant for trying to enforce the mask mandate. The passenger had boarded a Delta Air Lines flight from Miami to Atlanta in October when their traveling companion refused to wear a mask, secure his tray table, and fasten his seatbelt.

The agency is also proposing a $20,000 fine against a woman who allegedly shoved a flight attendant on a Dec. 27 JetBlue flight to Puerto Rico from Boston after she repeatedly ignored instructions to wear her mask and remain in her seat, according to the AP.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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