Zero Tolerance Policy from FAA Means Steep Fines for Unruly Passengers

A passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight from San Jose, California, to San Diego last April allegedly guzzled their private stash of booze on the plane, sexually assaulted the flight attendant who told them that was prohibited, and then smoked marijuana in the lavatory as the aircraft was making its final descent.

Now, the unnamed traveler—who was arrested at the gate for public intoxication and resisting arrest—is facing a $40,823 fine levied by the Federal Aviation Administration under the “Zero Tolerance” policy the agency launched earlier this year.

The FAA on Tuesday proposed a whopping $161,823 in civil penalties against eight passengers accused of “unruly behavior involving alcohol.” In 2021 alone, the FAA said it has received nearly 300 complaints of “passenger disturbances due to alcohol and intoxication,” and FAA data shows a total of 991 investigations initiated as of Nov. 16, a staggering 441 percent increase over just 183 investigations in all of 2020. There have been more than 5,200 unruly passenger reports filed so far this year, of which 3,798 were mask-related incidents. And although this sort of bad behavior has dipped since hitting record highs in early 2021, “the rate remains too high,” the FAA said in a statement.

Both Southwest and American have stopped all in-flight alcohol sales until 2022. The eight passengers fined by the FAA have 30 days to respond to their penalty notices.

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