Cookie snatching, cursing, punching and masks: Why FAA fined 10 ‘unruly’ US airline passengers

Fines for 10 passengers add up to $225,287, FAA says

The inside of an airplane. (Pexels)

Ten “unruly” United States airline passengers have been fined between $9,000 and $32,000 for a wide range of physical, verbal and mask-related assault incidents during flights, officials allege.

These fines are part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” crackdown on passenger disturbances. Since Jan. 1, 2021, the FAA has received more than 100 reports of unruly passengers involving physical assault, officials said.

A total of $225,287 in civil penalties have been issued against 10 passengers. They have 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond.

Here’s what those travelers are accused of doing.

Seatbelt argument leads to punches, trash throwing, cookie snatching

  • Flight information: Horizon Air flight from Austin, Texas, to San Francisco
  • Date: May 18
  • Fine: $32,000

A woman is accused of ignoring crew instructions to fasten her seatbelt. Officials said she punched and screamed at her husband and son, diverting flight attendants from their duties.

At one point, the woman threw trash at a flight attendant and snatched cookies from a nearby passenger, officials said.

Profane tirade before takeoff

  • Flight information: Delta Air Lines flight from New York to Los Angeles
  • Date: Jan. 4
  • Fine: $20,000

A man is accused of yelling orders at multiple flight attendants while the plan taxied from the gate.

Officials said the man got up while the “fastened seatbelt” sign was on and refused to return to his seat.

The man threatened a flight attendant, saying he ways going to “(expletive) up to his a--,” according to the FAA.

Officials said the man made physical contact with a flight attendant while moving up and down the aisle and continued to yell profanities.

The flight returned to the gate and police got on board to remove him from the plane, authorities said.

Man punches flight attendant, resulting in medical attention

  • Flight information: Southwest Airlines flight from New York City to Chicago
  • Date: May 5
  • Fine: $26,787

FAA officials said a passenger tried to enter the cockpit while the plane was descending, even though crew members told him to remain seated.

Flight attendants said the man didn’t seem aggressive, but they kept an eye on him afterward. When he returned to his seat, the man thought the plane had landed, so he started to remove his overhead luggage, according to authorities.

The crew coaxed the man to the back of the plane and sat him on the floor during landing, officials said. When the plane braked while touching down, flight attendants tried to hold the man down to stop him from hurting himself, they said.

Officials accuse the man of punching one of the flight attendants. That flight attendant required medical attention, authorities said.

Law enforcement officers met the man at the arrival gate.

Luggage argument leads to woman spitting on crew member

  • Flight information: Southwest Airlines flight from Boston to Chicago
  • Date: Feb. 3
  • Fine: $25,000

A passenger refused instructions to stow her carry-on luggage in the overhead bin, so she was asked to leave the plane and speak with ground station workers, according to officials.

The woman was told that she couldn’t continue with the flight, so she boarded the plane to collect her carry-on luggage, authorities said.

She sat down in a seat, grabbed onto the armrest and started shouting, crew members said. Her shouts were loud, aggressive and derogatory, officials said.

As she disembarked, the woman broke free from a travel companion’s grip and spat on a crew member, according to the FAA.

Police met the woman at the gate.

Flight attendant shoved after mask dispute

  • Flight information: American Airlines flight from Tampa, Florida, to Miami
  • Date: Jan. 21
  • Fine: $24,000

A passenger and her travel companions are accused of being disruptive while the plane stayed at the gate due to a minor mechanical issue. FAA officials said the woman had already failed to follow crew instruction to wear her face mask while boarding.

Several passengers asked for different seats to avoid the woman and her group, officials said.

When a flight attendant asked the woman to wear her face mask, she removed it as soon as the flight attendant walked away, according to authorities.

The captain asked to have the woman removed from the plane, and on her way out, the woman shoved a flight attendant in her chest, officials said.

Woman elbows, kicks flight attendant who asked her to wear mask

  • Flight information: Southwest Airlines flight from New Orleans to Baltimore
  • Date: March 28
  • Fine: $24,000

FAA officials said a woman had to be asked by a flight attendant to follow the face mask policy.

As that flight attendant picked up trash, the passenger intentionally elbowed him in the side and kicked him, according to authorities.

When the captain heard what happened, he locked down the cockpit and asked police to meet the woman at the gate, officials said.

Passenger from Detroit refuses to wear mask

  • Flight information: Delta Air Lines flight from Detroit to Salt Lake City
  • Date: Dec. 27, 2020
  • Fine: $24,000

Officials say a woman on the flight refused to follow crew instructions to wear her mask.

She threatened and cursed at members of the flight crew, and even shoved one crew member, according to officials.

Flight attendants verbally abused because seat didn’t recline

  • Flight information: American Airlines flight from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, to Aspen, Colorado
  • Date: March 11
  • Fine: $23,000

A woman verbally abused flight attendants when she realized that her assigned seat didn’t recline, officials said.

Multiple passengers offered to switch seats with the woman, and she initially declined while yelling at flight attendants, according to authorities.

She finally agreed to switch seats with another passenger, but continued to yell at the crew, according to the FAA.

Officials said the woman eventually struck a flight attendant on the right forearm once and tried to do so a second time.

She also refused to follow the face mask policy, officials said.

Police met the woman at the arrival gate.

Crew member told to ‘get his fat a--’ out of passenger’s face

  • Flight information: JetBlue Airlines flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Date: Nov. 7, 2020
  • Fine: $17,500

Officials said a passenger used profane language toward a crew member, telling him to “get his fat a--” out of his face.

The passenger also pushed the crew member, according to officials.

The captain diverted the flight to Richmond, Virginia, where police met the passenger at the gate, authorities said.

Passenger stomps on another passenger’s feet

  • Flight information: American Airlines flight from Cancun, Mexico, to Indianapolis
  • Date: March 20
  • Fine: $9,000

While the flight descended, a passenger stomped and/or kicked the feet of the passenger sitting in the seat behind him, according to officials.

The captain asked police to meet the flight at the arrival gate, authorities said.


About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.