Incidents of Unruly Passengers Highest Since July, FAA Says

08 Oct, 2021 Liz Carey


Washington, DC ( – According to new numbers released by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), unruly passenger incidents are on the rise again.

Released Tuesday, the new numbers show more disruption on commercial flights in the past week than in any week since July 20 – when the FAA started releasing weekly figures. Between Sept. 27 to Oct. 3, there were 128 new incidents reported by flight crews, the FAA said, bringing to 4,626 the total number of incidents of unruly passengers on flights since the beginning of the year. 

Of those, nearly 3,400 of them were over federally mandated mask wearing, the FAA’s figures showed.

Unruly passenger incidents have increased over the past year, sometimes rising to violent levels as passengers take out their frustrations on flight attendants and crew members. The FAA said it has initiated 849 investigations into unruly passenger incidents – 300 percent more investigations than the FAA initiated in the entirety of 2020. 

Earlier this year, the FAA adopted a zero-tolerance policy for unruly passengers, some of whom have become violent with crew members. In a recent incident a passenger punched a flight attendant in the face, knocking out two teeth. 

As part of the FAA’s reauthorization, Congress upped the fines for violations to up to $37,000 per violation for unruly passenger cases. Previously, the maximum civil penalty per violation was $25,000. The FAA noted that each incident can result in multiple violations. 

Members of Congress, as well as flight crew union representatives, are asking the federal government to do more about it. 

On July 31, Maxwell Berry,22, was flying on Frontier Airlines from Philadelphia to Miami when he became intoxicated. Video shot by another passenger shows Berry insulting fellow passengers, walking through the plane shirtless and allegedly groping two flight attendants. When a male flight attendant tried to intercede, police reports said, Berry repeatedly punched him in the face. Other flight attendants and crew members separated the two and then duct taped Berry to a seat for the remainder of the flight. 

Federal authorities decided not to prosecute Berry, although local law enforcement charged him with three misdemeanor count of battery, to which he pleaded not guilty. 

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Marie Cantwell, D-Wash., sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking him to investigate and prosecute unruly passengers.


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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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