FAA proposes over $160K in fines against airline passengers for alcohol-related incidents

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed more than $160,000 in fines against eight airline passengers for alleged unruly behavior involving alcohol.  

A majority of the cases involved passengers attempting to consume their own alcohol aboard the flight, which is against federal law. 

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The largest fine proposed for a single passenger Monday was over $40,000, according to the FAA,  

The Southwest Airlines passenger, who was on a flight to San Diego in April, is accused of drinking their own alcohol on the flight despite being told by a flight attendant that it was prohibited. 

The passenger is also accused of sexually assaulting the flight attendant and smoking marijuana in the bathroom of the plane as it was descending into San Diego.  

A passenger wears a face mask she travels on a Delta Air Lines flight after taking off from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.  (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File / AP Newsroom)

Another passenger, now facing a $17,000 fine, allegedly drank their own alcohol on a JetBlue Airlines flight from New York City to Ecuador in April, according to the FAA. 

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The passenger then allegedly "urinated on the lavatory floor, verbally abused the flight crew, and refused to follow crew instructions to wear a facemask," ultimately forcing the plane to divert to Florida, the FAA said. 

These cases are among nearly 300 reports of passenger disturbances due to alcohol and intoxication that the agency has received since January when its zero-tolerance policy took effect. 

Since then, the agency has been proposing fines against passengers who assault, threaten, intimidate or interfere with airline crew members. Under the FAA's Reauthorization Bill, the agency can propose up to $37,000 per violation as a repercussion. One reported incident, however, can lead to multiple violations, according to the agency.

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After adopting the policy, the rate of unruly incidents on commercial flights "dropped sharply," though it still "remains too high," according to the FAA. 

In a letter sent to airports in August, FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson said "investigations show that alcohol often contributes to this unsafe behavior." 

Travelers move through Salt Lake City International Airport Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021, in Salt Lake City.  (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, file / AP Newsroom)

To try and quell the unruly incidents, Dickson asked airports to prevent passengers from bringing "to-go" cups of alcohol aboard flights. 

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"Even though FAA regulations specifically prohibit the consumption of alcohol aboard an aircraft that is not served by the airline, we have received reports that some airport concessionaires have offered alcohol "to go," and passengers believe they can carry that alcohol onto their flights or they become inebriated during the boarding process," Dickson wrote in the letter. 

To date, there have been 5,240 unruly passenger reports.

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