The 10 Worst Airline Passengers in America
Passengers were fined more than $1.45 million in 2021.
It has been a distressing year for flight attendants who have faced verbal and physical attacks by violent passengers. However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is pulling no punches when it comes to disruptive passengers. Early in 2021, the FAA made it clear that those who refuse to wear masks or threaten and intimidate the crew will face fines and possibly jail time (the FAA cannot prosecute criminal cases, but they refer the cases to federal prosecutors). As of December 21, 2021, there have been 5,779 reports of unruly behavior, 4,156 mask-related incidents, and 1,054 investigations. Since the zero-tolerance policy came into effect in January 2021, the FAA has levied heavy fines (up to $37,000 per violation) on passengers who interfere with the crew on flights and behave abominably. More than $1.45 million in civil penalties have been proposed by the FAA till November and the number may be higher still. Here’s a list of the worst offenders slapped with thousands of dollars of fines for sexually assaulting, punching, kicking, and verbally abusing the crew, interfering with their duties under the influence of alcohol, and refusing to comply with the federal mask mandate.
The JetBlue Passenger Fined $45,000
A JetBlue passenger was penalized a whopping $45,000 for throwing objects at other passengers, refusing to stay seated, lying on the floor, and putting his head up a flight attendant’s skirt. The offender was flying from New York to Orlando and was placed in flexi-cuffs while the flight made an emergency landing in Richmond. Now he’ll be asked to cough up as much as a student’s college tuition fee for his awful behavior.
The JetBlue Passenger Fined $42,000
Another incident on a JetBlue flight. This one was flying from Queens to San Francisco when a passenger refused to wear a mask, made non-consensual contact with another passenger, threatened other passengers with harm, made stabbing gestures, and snorted cocaine from a bag. The flight was diverted to Minneapolis and he was removed from the aircraft by law enforcement officers.
The Southwest Passenger Fined $40,823
On a Southwest flight from San Jose to San Diego in April, a passenger drank his own alcohol (prohibited by law) and sexually assaulted a flight attendant. He went on to smoke marijuana in the lavatory as the flight was descending and was arrested for public intoxication and resisting arrest.
The American Airlines Passenger Fined $34,250
An American Airlines flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Burbank in March had a major disruption from a passenger who refused to wear a mask on board. He faked drinking from an empty cup when requested to wear his mask several times by the crew, threw his second alcoholic drink to the floor and stomped on it, and requested another one when a nearby passenger called him out for being out of line. The disruptive passenger yelled profanities, the FAA, reports, and the flight attendant requested law enforcement to meet at the arrival gate after de-escalating the situation in the air.
The Southwest Passenger Fined $32,500
In January 2021, a Southwest Airlines flight from Orlando to Kansas City was returned to the gate due to an unruly passenger. He assaulted passengers around him when someone refused to change seats with his travel partner. He threatened to commit violent crimes and told his companion he’d need to bail him out. Along with the $32,500 penalty that the FAA slapped on him, Southwest also took punitive action by putting him on their no-fly list.
The Austin-San Francisco Passenger Fined $32,000
The passenger who brought home $32,000 in penalties was flying from Austin to San Francisco. She refused to fasten her seat belt, punched and screamed at her husband and son, threw trash at a flight attendant, and snatched cookies from a fellow passenger.
The Frontier Passenger Fined $30,000
A Frontier Airlines from Atlanta to New York had a major disturbance when a passenger tried to gain entry into the flight deck during deplaning. He physically assaulted two flight attendants and threatened to kill them and the captain had to call for law enforcement on exiting.
The JetBlue Passenger Fined $29,000
On a JetBlue flight from Boston to Orlando, a passenger refused to wear her mask. Her list of unruly behavior also included screaming profanities, purposely bumping into a seated passenger, and punching that passenger. Law enforcement was waiting for her at the gate on arrival.
The Southwest Passenger Fined $26,787
In May, a Southwest flight bound to Chicago witnessed an altercation between a passenger and the crew. The man tried to enter the cockpit during the final descent, attempted to remove his luggage from the overhead compartment while the plane was still in motion, and punched a flight attendant when he was held down during touchdown to avoid injuries. The flight attendant required medical attention and he was welcomed by law enforcement at the gate.
Elliott Cowand Jr/Shutterstock
The Frontier Passenger Fined $25,500
In March last year, a passenger screamed obscenities at the flight crew and other passengers and locked herself in the lavatory of the Frontier Airlines aircraft heading to Providence. She also threw nuts at other passengers and shoved both her middle fingers in the flight attendant’s face. She was removed from the flight on arrival by law officers.