FAA seeks $27,500 penalty against female passenger who punched a flight attendant

A female passenger on a Delta Airlines flight is being penalized for her actions during a flight last October. Friday the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a proposed fine of $27,500 for a passenger who punched a flight attendant.

The flight was from Miami to Atlanta on October 19. The passenger is not named in the announcement. She was traveling with and sitting next to a male companion who refused to wear a face mask, secure his tray table or fasten his seatbelt, according to the FAA. Due to the male’s behavior, the flight returned to the gate. Flight attendants asked the two passengers to get off the aircraft.

The situation went south from there. The female passenger became angry and started cursing and ended up punching a flight attendant.

“In response, the passenger accompanying the non-compliant traveler ignored the flight attendant’s instructions, began yelling expletives at the flight attendant and other passengers, and struck the flight attendant under her left eye,” the FAA said.

This incident, which happened in October, is now being prosecuted under the FAA’s new rules aimed at a zero-tolerance policy on aggressive and/or violent behavior of passengers. In January the FAA, encouraged by the airlines, stepped up enforcement against unruly airline passengers. Allegedly a need arose after confrontations occurred on flights to and from Washington, D.C., around the time of the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Airlines banned the sale of alcohol on flights in and out of Washington, D.C. on the dates just before and after the January 6 rally with Trump, and issued a “security alert” for additional security measures for traveling lawmakers. Last October, just days after this passenger slugged the flight attendant, Delta Airlines (the carrier this woman and her companion were flying) announced its intention to establish a no-fly list for passengers who refuse to comply with face mask requirements on flights.

Just a week after the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill, the FAA pointed a bureaucratic finger directly at Trump supporters as the reason for stricter, no-tolerance rules. Flight attendants applauded the move.

The Federal Aviation Administration said there has been “a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior. These incidents have stemmed both from passengers’ refusals to wear masks and from recent violence at the U.S. Capitol.”

The FAA said under an order signed by Administrator Stephen Dickson, unruly passengers will no longer get warnings. Instead, the agency said, it will launch legal enforcement actions. Penalties can includes fines up to $35,000 and jail terms for passengers who assault or threaten airline crews or other passengers.

The new policy will be in effect through March 30. It won quick praise from the head of the largest U.S. flight attendants’ union.

“First strike and you’re out. We applaud FAA Administrator Dickson for taking this clear stand for our safety and security,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, said in a statement. “This will help serve as a deterrent to unruly passengers who had been bucking the rules of aviation safety.”

Funny thing, though. “The FAA said it has pursued more than 1,300 enforcement actions against passengers in the past 10 years. It did not immediately provide a count of recent cases.” No count of recent cases? Are there just so many now, in the aftermath of the presidential election, that they can’t all be counted, or is it that there really hasn’t been an increase in unruly passengers and Trump supporters are being used as scapegoats for a power grab by the FAA? It seems to me if the FAA wants to appear to have a real need to establish measures like no-fly lists and eliminating warnings to passengers and going straight to zero-tolerance, the agency would have some data readily available to justify its actions.

In this case, there is no apparent connection to pro-Trump sentiments (it happened before the election) but to an aversion to the face mask requirement of Delta Airlines. Plus, the male passenger was acting like a horse’s butt. Unruly passengers are nothing new. I don’t have a problem with protecting airline personnel or the safety of passengers. Certainly, no flight attendant should be punched in the face by anyone. I do have a problem, though, with the double standard. Why didn’t airlines feel the need to put stricter enforcement in place over the last ten years when it cites 1,300 actions taken against passengers? How about during the Summer of Love when agitators from across the country traveled to major cities to participate in BLM marches and protests that turned into riots?

Obviously, this woman should receive disciplinary action and a fine is a reasonable reaction to her behavior. She’s lucky she wasn’t tossed in jail. People who act physically aggressive against others or destroy property should face consequences. The passenger facing the $27,500 fine has 30 days to respond to the FAA after receiving the agency’s enforcement letter.

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