• September 27, 2023

Passenger Faces $32K Fine Over Allegations of Assault, Stolen Cookies

  • The Federal Aviation Administration announced $225,287 in civil penalties for unruly passengers.
  • A passenger accused of punching her family and throwing trash at the crew faces a $32,000 fine.
  • More than 100 incidents of assault have been reported to the FAA in 2021.

The incident that led to the largest fine in the Federal Aviation Administration’s latest round of civil penalties appears to have started over a seatbelt.

The FAA alleged that on a flight to San Francisco from Austin, Texas, last May, a Horizon Air passenger refused to follow crew members’ instructions to buckle up and then punched and screamed at her son and husband.

When crew members tried to intervene, she threw trash at them and “snatched cookies from a nearby passenger,” the agency said.

Now she’s facing a $32,000 fine and has 30 days to respond to the charges following the agency’s notification of its enforcement decision.

The incident was one of 10 cases of alleged assault aboard US aircraft leading to a total of $225,287 in civil penalties that the FAA announced on Wednesday.

The FAA said it wanted to fine a Delta passenger $20,000 over allegations of seatbelt violations that escalated to physical violence and profane threats against a flight attendant.

Half of the cases involved violations of the FAA’s face-masking regulations. The FAA accused four passengers of reacting violently to crew members’ instructions to wear a face mask, and it accused one person of spitting on a crew member and refusing to stow her carry-on luggage.

Interfering with aircraft crew is against federal law in the US, as is physically assaulting or threatening assault against crew members or anyone else on an aircraft. Penalties can include fines and prison time if a person is found guilty.

The FAA said that it had logged more than 5,000 reports of unruly behavior by passengers in 2021 but that only 227 cases had initiated enforcement action, meaning offenders pay civil penalties and are not charged with a criminal offense.

The agency said that more than 100 passenger-disturbance reports this year had involved assault, and the total penalties for 2021 top $1.2 million with this latest announcement.

The FAA can issue only civil penalties, but the agency has said it has referred 37 of the “most egregious” cases to the FBI for criminal prosecution.

Flight attendants have reported being punched, groped, spat at, and verbally abused by passengers this year.

If you are a flight-crew member or airline passenger who would like to share an unruly-passenger experience with Insider, please email Dominick Reuter.