A woman who struck a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight to Aspen from the Dallas-Fort Worth airport earlier this year could be forced to pay a $23,000 fine, the Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday in announcing new penalties sought against 10 unruly passengers.
Several other passengers on flights to or from Colorado have faced potential fines this year as air traffic has returned from pandemic lows. The FAA has investigated a surge in reports of passengers refusing to wear masks, causing disturbances and, in rare cases, assaulting crew members. Through Tuesday, airlines this year have reported more than 5,100 incidents.
The passenger on the March flight to Aspen, who wasn’t identified, refused to wear a face mask — which is still required aboard airplanes and in airports — and “verbally abused flight attendants after she realized her assigned seat would not recline,” according to an FAA news release.
The woman rebuffed several offers by fellow passengers to switch seats before finally accepting a trade, the release states, but “then struck a flight attendant on the right forearm, and attempted to do so again.”
In a more recent midflight incident, an American Airlines flight from New York City to Santa Ana, California, was diverted to Denver International Airport late last month after a man assaulted a flight attendant, including punching her in the face. The attendant was treated at a Denver hospital, and federal prosecutors charged the passenger, Brian Hsu, with assault and interference with a flight crew. The airline also has banned Hsu from its flights.
The FAA’s latest fines for abusive passengers, totaling $201,287, are on top of more than $1 million in proposed penalties announced previously.
In August, the FAA initiated fines that included four stemming from Colorado flights:
- $15,000 each for two men who were returning from Las Vegas to DIA on a Frontier Airlines flight in late 2020. They drank alcohol they brought aboard, including while flight attendants advised them that doing so was against federal regulations. Flight rules allow consumption of alcohol only if it’s served by the airline.
- $9,000 for a man who refused to wear a face mask and then interfered with crew members on a United Airlines flight from DIA to Flagstaff, Arizona, in January.
- $9,000 for a man on an Alaska Airlines flight from DIA to Seattle in February who wouldn’t wear a face mask and then interfered with flight attendants. He was accused of “hiding a flight attendant’s jacket under his seat; punching the aircraft window; and punching a tray table.”
In all those cases, including the Aspen flight, law enforcement officers met the passengers at the gate, the FAA reported. It’s unclear if any resulted in criminal charges, and the FAA does not identify passengers against which it has sought penalties.
Incidents reported by airlines in recent months have been down compared to the first half of 2021, but the numbers remain substantially above typical levels, the FAA stated. The agency has taken a “zero tolerance” approach this year, seeking civil penalties instead of issuing warnings or an agreement from the passenger to get counseling.
The FAA told The Denver Post the maximum civil penalty it can seek is $37,000 per violation, although one incident can include more than one violation.
Passengers targeted with fines can respond in several ways, including by challenging the violation, requesting a lower penalty, providing documentation showing they’re unable to pay the fine or requesting a hearing before an administrative law judge to review the case, according to the FAA. The agency refers unpaid fines to the U.S. Department of Treasury for collection.
Source: Read Full Article