LOS ANGELES - Two passengers could face tens of thousands of dollars in fines for allegedly interfering with — and in one case assaulting — flight attendants who instructed them to wear face masks.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, a female passenger failed multiple times to comply with flight attendants’ instructions to wear a face mask and remain seated with her seatbelt fastened on a JetBlue Airlines flight from Boston to Puerto Rico on Dec. 27.
"The passenger shoved a flight attendant multiple times in her chest/shoulder area, shouted obscenities at the flight attendant, and threatened to have her fired. As a result of the passenger’s behavior, the captain diverted the flight back to Boston," the FAA wrote. She faces a fine of $20,000.
Then, just days later on another JetBlue Airlines flight from New York to the Dominican Republic, a male passenger failed multiple times to comply with flight attendants’ instructions to wear his facemask and refused to stop drinking from his personal bottle of alcohol, which is prohibited by FAA regulations.
"After flight attendants issued the passenger a ‘Notice to Cease Objectionable Behavior’ card, he shouted profanities at them, slammed overhead bins and became more and more uncooperative and agitated," the FAA wrote. "During the landing phase of flight, including when the plane was taxiing to the gate, the passenger stood up while the ‘fasten seatbelt’ sign was illuminated, threw his bottle of alcohol behind a seat, and went to the lavatory. As a result of the passenger’s behavior, the flight crew requested that law enforcement meet the aircraft at the gate."
This FAA is proposing a fine of $12,250 in the incident.
The passengers have 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.
The FAA’s announcement came shortly after the agency extended its zero-tolerance policy toward passengers who cause disturbances on flights or fail to obey flight crew instructions in violation of the agency’s regulations.
"The number of cases we’re seeing is still far too high, and it tells us urgent action continues to be required," FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson said.
The agency said passengers who disrupt or threaten the safety of a flight could face fines and jail time under this policy.
Meanwhile, airlines have recently reported more than 500 cases involving unruly passengers since late December — most of which started with passengers refusing to wear a face mask.The FAA said it is reviewing more than 450 of the cases and has opened 20 formal enforcement cases, according to the Associated Press.