Unruly airline passengers face thousands in fines as air travel picks up

A passenger on a JetBlue flight from New York has been accused of putting her finger in her nose and yelling and cursing at a flight attendant who asked her to put on her mask, forcing the plane to land in Fort Lauderdale instead of Cancun. The incident is one of four that the Federal Aviation Administration announced Monday in which people accused of disrupting flights are facing fines as high as $15,500. 

The FAA said it has received more than 3,000 reports of unruly passenger behavior since the beginning of the year. The announcement comes after two Delta flights were diverted last week because of unruly passengers.

The fines for the four different incidents, all of which occurred in February, were announced as post-pandemic travel picks up: More than 5.9 million passengers were screened by the Transportation Security Administration from Friday through Sunday, the most in a three-day period in the last 15 months.

That JetBlue passenger is facing a fine of $10,500, while another accused of ignoring flight attendants who told him to wear his mask while not eating or drinking at least 10 times and drinking mini bottles of alcohol staff members had not served him is facing a $15,500 fine.

An Alaska Airlines passenger headed from Boise, Idaho, to Los Angeles is accused of smoking an e-cigarette in the onboard bathroom, setting off the smoke detector, and ignoring flight attendants’ request to wear a mask. He is facing a $10,300 fine.

In the final incident announced Monday, a Southwest Airlines passenger traveling from Fort Myers, Florida, to Denver is also accused of refusing to wear a mask when asked by flight attendants, and is facing a $7,500 fine. More than 2,300 of the incidents reported to the FAA involved passengers refusing to wear masks.

The fines are the latest requested under the FAA’s zero-tolerance policy, which has imposed eye-popping penalties on passengers for disruptive behavior since it was announced in January, including a $52,000 fine for a passenger who tried to open the cockpit door and hit a flight attendant in the face. 

Errol Barnett contributed to this report.

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