Could large fines be on the horizon for unruly airline passengers?

Local News

UTAH (ABC4) – This week, the Federal Aviation Administration is proposing large fines for unruly airline passengers as the FAA chief claims there’s an alarming increase in these incidents happening across the country.   

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A large majority of those incidents are people refusing to wear masks on planes, according to the FAA. Even with the CDC recommendations stating that you don’t have to wear a mask indoors if you’re fully vaccinated, it is still federal law to wear a mask on all forms of public transportation, including airplanes.   

Nancy Volmer, a spokesperson with the Salt Lake City Airport, said for the most part, travelers have complied with the rules in place. However, she noted that there has been increased confusion over when you need to wear a mask and when you do not.  

“Not everyone is familiar with the fact that airports still do require masks, but typically when we ask people to wear masks, they’ll comply,” Volmer said.  

The reason travelers are still required to wear a mask despite the recommendation by the CDC is because it is federal law to wear one on all forms of public transportation.  

However, across the country, more and more travelers are becoming fed up with the rules and pushing back.  

“We have seen an alarming increase in the rate over the last few months, and it’s something that we need to get under control,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told ABC News’ Transportation Correspondent Gio Benitez. “This is something that we should all be concerned about.”  

As a result, the FAA is strictly enforcing a zero-tolerance policy toward passengers who cause disturbances on flights or don’t follow flight crew’s instructions.  

According to ABC News, the FAA proposed its largest fine to a passenger this year: $52,500 for a man who allegedly punched a flight attendant in the face and tried to open the cockpit door. The agency has proposed almost $350,000 in total fines to unruly passengers since January.   

Airlines have referred more than 1,300 cases of unruly passenger reports to the FAA. The agency has identified violations in 350 of those cases.  

At the Salt Lake City Airport, you are required to wear a mask while inside the building and on the plane. However, when you are eating and drinking, you do not need to wear one.  

Volmer said staff is not fining travelers who aren’t wearing a mask. They also do not have plans to increase security or implement stricter punishments to those who don’t comply.  

“It’s not like it’s illegal not to wear a mask, but it’s just a courtesy for other passengers. More and more people are vaccinated, but we aren’t sure who is vaccinated so it’s a good idea to keep a mask on,” Volmer said.  

Instead, travelers are going to be reminded to wear one and will be given a mask if they don’t have one. They put up signs reminding travelers to wear one and they have employees stationed at different areas of the airport to help monitor their behavior. 

It is important to note that you will not be allowed to board a plane or go through security at the Salt Lake City International Airport unless you are wearing a mask.  

ABC4 spoke with several travelers at the Salt Lake City International Airport on Tuesday to get their thoughts on the rules in place.  

“I do agree with the rules that are in place. If we don’t follow them, there are just going to be more problems. Follow the rules they’re here for our safety,” traveler Justine Herena said.  

“I don’t necessarily think it should be a requirement I think maybe at the beginning it should’ve been, but I think we’re kind of coming out of it now,” traveler Mary Greemer said.

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