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The FAA announced Wednesday that the zero tolerance policy for unruly passengers will become permanent.
Bad behavior on planes has been a huge problem for airlines in the United States since the start of the pandemic. Over 1,200 passenger incidents have been reported so far in 2022 and we’re not even halfway through the year.
Under the now permanent policy, unruly passengers will be fined $37,000 per violation. With the ability to commit multiple violations in one incident, fines can reach up to $80,000
The rise in unruly behavior began at the start of the pandemic. Many cases stemmed from mask enforcement, with 800 of the 1,200 already reported this year linked to mask enforcement. But it’s not just masks, airline passengers are behaving less and less well in general.
Increased weapons found
It is more than the behavior on board the planes that poses a problem. The TSA also reports an increase in weapons and prohibited items during the pandemic. In 2020, the TSA found 3,257 firearms and 83% of them were loaded.
This was less than the record set in 2019 of 4,432 firearms, but air traffic was significantly lower in 2020 due to the pandemic, so it’s a higher percentage of travelers trying to take these weapons with them. edge. In addition, the TSA also found over 3,200 prohibited items in aircraft cabins, such as knives and, for some reason, throwing stars.
Have the airlines reacted?
Major US airlines American Airlines, United, Delta and Southwest responded to the increase in incidents by banning the sale of alcohol on all flights.
The alcohol ban was enacted in 2020 and lasted for two years. Airlines have cited these passenger incidents as allegedly involving either verbal abuse or even violence against flight attendants and airline employees. American Airlines has actually just become the latest airline to ban alcohol, as most travel-related things are starting to return to normal.
It’s unclear whether banning alcohol sales on board has made a huge difference. Many problematic passengers who were intoxicated on flights had previously consumed alcohol at the airport. Some even brought take-out cups from restaurants to the departure lounges, prompting some airports to ban cups.
What else do we do?
The TSA has partnered with the FAA to prohibit unruly passengers from being eligible for PreCheck. As part of this partnership, the FAA will share information with the TSA on passengers facing fines for unruly behavior. The TSA then has the discretion to remove passengers from TSA PreCheck eligibility.
“The TSA has zero tolerance for unruly behavior, especially that involving physical assault on aircraft. We have tremendous respect for airport personnel, gate agents and flight crews who bring passengers people safely at their destination. This partnership with the FAA will help ensure the safety and security of all passengers and hold those who violate federal regulations accountable for their actions,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. .
Last week, a federal judge in Florida overturned the US government’s ongoing national mask mandate for public transportation, including air, train and bus travel. It will be interesting to see if the number of passenger incidents drops significantly without airlines needing to enforce the mask mandate. Conversely, perhaps the reopening of travel and new relaxed rules will de-stress passengers and bring us back to the pre-pandemic calm we were used to at the airport.
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