FAA Announces Unruly Passengers Could Now Face Fines, Jail Time

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The Federal Aviation Administration announced stricter consequences for unruly passengers on planes Wednesday in light of the growing number of incidents following last week's deadly Capitol riot.

A passenger who "assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members" will face a fine of up to $35,000 as well as imprisonment, the FAA announced. The order will also apply to those who refuse to wear masks, which airlines currently require due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new directive will be in place through March 30.

"Flying is the safest mode of transportation and I signed this order to keep it that way," FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement.

Previously, the FAA said unruly passengers were given a warning, offered counseling, or faced civil penalties. 

A growing number of industry players and politicians, including soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have called for those involved in the pro-Trump riot at the Capitol to be put on a no-fly list. In addition, Alaska Airlines banned 14 passengers who refused to wear a mask and were argumentative on a flight from Dulles International Airport to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

The FAA said it does not have regulatory authority over no-fly lists, but said it has "initiated more than 1,300 enforcement actions against unruly passengers" over the past 10 years. 

The action also comes amid tension in the nation's capital ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. Officials have warned people not to come to Washington D.C. for the occasion and Airbnb has canceled all reservations for that week as well as vowed to remove users identified as being associated with hate groups or the Capitol building riot.

Delta Air Lines will also not allow passengers flying to the Washington D.C. area to check firearms on their flight ahead of the inaguration, the airline's CEO Ed Bastian told CNBC on Thursday.

"We're all on high alert based on the events over the last couple of weeks in Washington," he said.

The National Parks Service has also temporarily cancelled tours at the Washington Monument and said it may close public access to roadways, parking areas, and restrooms on the National Mall and in Memorial Parks.

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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