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Passengers who drank own alcohol, disrupted flights face hefty FAA fines

The FAA enacted a zero-tolerance policy this year after multiple incidents where passengers confronted flight attendants.

WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday it is seeking fines totaling $63,000 against three unruly passengers who disrupted flights, drank their own alcohol that was not provided by the airline and disobeyed flight attendant instructions. Two of the passengers are accused of assaulting members of the flight crew.

Due to multiple incidents in which some passengers have been confrontational with flight crews, the FAA enacted a zero-tolerance, zero warning policy in January. As is often heard during the pre-flight safety briefing, it is against federal regulation to disobey flight crew instructions.

Incidents became more noticeable during the COVID-19 pandemic when some passengers refused to wear face masks. But, another recently-cited issue has been passengers drinking their own alcohol that was not provided by the airline.

The biggest fine proposed by the FAA Tuesday is $31,750 against a JetBlue passenger who flew from Haiti to Boston on Jan. 4. The passenger is accused by the FAA of drinking alcohol they brought on board and acting "in a disruptive manner." The passenger allegedly "yelled and waved his hands in an angry manner" after flight attendants responded to complaints about him from another passenger.

"The FAA further alleges this passenger grabbed the arms of two separate flight attendants during the flight, and the cabin crew needed to reseat surrounding passengers," the agency said in a press release. "The flight crew asked law enforcement to meet the aircraft at the arrival gate, and police escorted the passenger off the plane."

The FAA said a second passenger on the same flight also was drinking alcohol they brought on board, was disruptive and shouted obscenities. That person is also alleged to have indicated they might strike a flight attendant after a complaint by a passenger. Just as with the first person, the passenger was escorted off the plan when it arrived. The FAA is proposing a $16,750 fine.

A third incident happened on a Jan. 14 SkyWest Airlines flight from Yuma, Ariz., to Dallas. The FAA alleges the man drank multiple bottles of alcohol he brought on board. He also allegedly tried to touch a passenger sitting behind him. 

After he was moved to another seat, the man allegedly continued to bother passengers around him and kept leaving his seat. Two off-duty law enforcement officers who were on the flight had to physically put him back in his seat.

The incident became so severe, the captain allegedly requested priority landing status and called for police to meet the aircraft at the gate. The proposed fine for that passenger is $14,500.

The FAA said the passengers have 30 days to respond.