FAA Institutes Zero Tolerance Policy and Steep Fines for Unruly Passenger Behavior

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Passengers, almost all wearing facemasks, board an American Airlines flight to Charlotte, on May 3, 2020, in New York City. - The wearing of masks to protect against the coronavirus has become such a sensitive issue in the United States that airlines are struggling to impose the practice on defiant travelers in the enclosed environment of an airplane. (Photo by Eleonore SENS / AFP) (Photo by ELEONORE SENS/AFP via Getty Images)

Punching flight attendants, hurling racial slurs at the crew, throwing luggage at staff. These are just a few of the over 5,000 complaints of unruly passenger behavior that the FAA has received this year. Airlines have banned some passengers for life, flight attendants have demanded more protection, and the FAA has announced a zero tolerance policy for this behavior and levied over $1 million in fines this year. As the holiday travel season picks up, we look at why there’s been an uptick in bad behavior and what can be done about it.


Thom McDaniel, flight attendant, Southwest Airlines; International vice president, Transport Workers Union of America

Raychel Armstrong, flight attendant, Allegiant Airlines; vice president of TWU Local 577

Natalie Compton, reporter for the Washington Post's travel column "By the Way"

Rick Larsen, U.S. Member of Congress representing Washington's 2nd District; chair, House Subcommittee on Aviation