Unruly passengers down 50% in 2022, FAA says more work to be done

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The 37 cases referred to the FBI this week were among 227 of the most egregious instances of unruly or disruptive behavior that had been reported to the FAA since enacting its “zero-tolerance” policy in January. (Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)

(ABC4) – So far into 2022, things are getting better for airlines, at least as far as dealing with unruly passengers is concerned.

Still, the Federal Aviation Administration says there is plenty of work to be done.

Releasing new data on Wednesday with the tagline, “Bad behavior will not fly in 2022,” the FAA noted that the rate of unruly incidents has dropped approximately 50% from the record highs reached around this point in 2021. Two weeks into the new year, the Administration has gathered 76 reports, 43 of which have been mask-related. Of those reports, a single investigation with an enforcement action has been initiated, according to the figures.

In 2021, the FAA finished the year by counting 5,981 unruly reports with 4,290 of those being related to facial coverings, resulting in 1,081 investigations and 350 enforcement actions taken.

Flights en route into Salt Lake City International Airport saw a couple of noteworthy incidents in the record-breaking year. In November, a woman flying into Utah from Detroit allegedly refused to don her mask, threatened and cursed at crewmembers, and even shoved one of them. She was slapped with a $24,000 fine by the FAA.

Other Utah-related ordeals in 2021 included a $9,000 fine to a passenger headed to Long Beach from Salt Lake City who refused to wear his mask and another passenger from Las Vegas who became combative with crewmembers before placing his mask inside his mouth as opposed to covering the outside as he was mandated.

In wake of the massive uptick in unruly passengers over the last year, the FAA produced a comprehensive awareness campaign that involved the use of several social memes, including one featuring an iconic movie exchange from Brad Pitt and Edward Norton’s characters in Fight Club.

As suggested by the green truck meme, fines for unruly passengers can get quite expensive, reaching a maximum of $37,000, an increase of the previous maximum of $25,000. The FAA notes on its background information that interfering with the duties of a crewmember is a violation of federal law and could ultimately lead to criminal charges, in addition to a substantial fine.

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