SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) – As air travel picks up amid loosening COVID-19 restrictions, the Federal Aviation Administration is proposing thousands of dollars in fines against unruly passengers.
The FAA reports there’s been a dramatic increase in bad passenger behavior this year, much of it tied to the federal mask mandate.
The FAA says there’ve been almost 2,000 reports of passengers defying mask mandates on flights so far this year.
In one case, a man who flew from Oakland to Houston is facing a $9,000 fine for refusing to wear his mask.
As this mandate is expected to last through the summer, the FAA is maintaining a stern approach.
In a typical year, the FAA sees anywhere from 100 to 150 cases of unruly passengers on flights but this year the number has jumped much higher to 2,500, including 1,900 cases of people who refuse to wear masks.
Just last weekend, a Southwest flight from Sacramento to San Diego saw a passenger hit a flight attendant who lost two teeth in the assault.
“I was about to go there to go ‘hey take it easy,’ I was about to stand up and this lady stood up and pow!”
Another video from on-board the flight showed what appeared to be the suspected violent passenger being taken off of the plane by San Diego law enforcement.
“I talked to a flight attendant on my flight back and she told me that yes the flight attendant had broken teeth, a broken nose, facial injuries.”
Airlines say compliance with rules this year appears to be more challenging than ever before.
“The federal government still requires the traveling public to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation. This is a federal mandate,” Alejandro Mayorkas sid.
The mandate from the transportation security administration was set to expire May 11 but was extended through September 13.
The FAA says it will continue its zero-tolerance policy for disruptive passengers as long as the mask rule is in effect.
“If you disrupt a flight with threatening, intimidating or violent behavior you’ll face a civil penalty from the FAA of up to $35,000,” Steve Dickson said.
Right now, the FAA is seeking close to $60,000 in civil penalties from unruly passengers.
The president of the Southwest flight attendants union has also been calling for more safety on flights and banning passengers who violate the rules.