The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it will tighten enforcement of penalties on unruly passengers in the wake of several instances of politically motivated harassment in airports and onboard aircraft in recent weeks.
The agency said it has seen “a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior,” according to The Associated Press.
“These incidents have stemmed both from passengers’ refusals to wear masks and from recent violence at the U.S. Capitol,” the FAA added, announcing in an order from Administrator Stephen Dickson that warnings would no longer be issued to passengers who commit unruly acts.
Instead, Dickson said, highlighted fines up to $35,000 and jail terms if passengers physically assault or verbally threaten airline crews or other travelers.
“First strike and you’re out. We applaud FAA Administrator Dickson for taking this clear stand for our safety and security,” Sara Nelson, the head of the largest Flight Attendants union said in a statement to the AP. “This will help serve as a deterrent to unruly passengers who had been bucking the rules of aviation safety.”
In recent weeks, multiple videos have emerged showing heated confrontations between U.S. lawmakers and angry supporters of before or during flights in an out of Washington, D.C.
“Why aren’t you supporting President Trump?” a woman asked Sen. (R-Utah) during a confrontation at the airport in Salt Lake last week. “You’re a joke,” another passenger said. CNBC reported on Thursday that Delta has banned the passengers involved in the confrontation with Romney.
Rep. (D-Calif.) was also accosted inside Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. late last week, with more than a dozen Trump supporters screaming at him and telling him “nobody here voted for you.”
Thousands of Trump supporters traveled to Washington, D.C. last week for a “Stop the Steal” rally and march on the Capitol that ultimately deteriorated into widespread rioting that left several people dead.
Scenes of uncooperative travelers refusing to comply with mask mandates or social distancing measures meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus also played out over the summer.
Earlier this week, video of a man crying and screaming after being removed from a flight because he allegedly refused to wear a mask over his nose and mouth went viral.
The FAA’s new policy will be in effect through March 30.
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