A flight attendant collects trash on a flight aboard a Boeing 737 Max from Dallas Fort Worth Airport to Tulsa, Oklahoma, December 2, 2020.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters
The head of the Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday that travelers will face grave consequences for unruly behavior on airplanes. This is a stern warning following multiple incidents on board last week with pro-Trump chanting and passengers refusing to wear masks requesting to fly on U.S. airlines.
"The FAA will take tough enforcement action against anyone who threatens the safety of a flight. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment," FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement.
Unruly passengers can face fines of up to $ 35,000.
Alaska Airlines said Friday it banned 14 passengers on a flight from Washington DC to Seattle. The travelers "were not mask-conforming, vocal, argumentative and harassed our crew members. Their behavior was unacceptable," said Ray Lane, Alaska Airlines spokesman. "We apologize to our other guests who felt uncomfortable on the flight.
Videos from multiple incidents were shared on social media. An American Airlines pilot on a Washington-to-Phoenix flight warned travelers that he would "park this plane and drop people off in the middle of Kansas" in order to convince passengers to "behave" on board.
"At American, we take our customers' safety seriously and value the trust they place in our team to look after them throughout their journey," American said in a statement. The pilot made an announcement emphasizing the importance of following the instructions of the crew members and following the mandatory guidelines on face covering. "
Earlier this week, some passengers sang "traitors" on a Delta Air Lines flight with Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah. Delta said his "crew got involved quickly and solved the problem".
On another flight this week, American Airlines flight attendants turned on the lights and ordered passengers to take their seats after passengers yelled at and cursed each other. This comes from a video shared by Twitter user @MaranieRae who said she was on the flight.
"I expect all passengers to follow the instructions of the crew members for their safety and the safety of the flight," said Dickson. "The FAA monitors and tracks all commercial passenger flights in real time, and there are reporting mechanisms in place for crew members to identify any number of safety concerns that may arise in flight."
Dickson said unruly behavior could distract crews and compromise crew members' ability to perform safety-related duties.
Dickson's testimony comes after flight attendant unions this week raised safety concerns over politically motivated flight disruptions after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol and demanded that the presidential election results be overturned.
"The mob mentality behavior that took place on multiple flights to the DC area yesterday was unacceptable and threatened the safety of every single person on board," said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents approximately 50,000 flight attendants United, Alaska and more than a dozen other airlines said Wednesday.
The airlines had taken precautions and moved crews to airport hotels after the politically motivated uprising in the Capitol. American Airlines has stopped serving alcohol on flights to Washington DC.
"We should work harder to keep problems on the ground," the AFA told flight attendants after the FAA warned on Saturday. "Make sure you strictly adhere to the masks before pushing back. Work as a crew, communicate, and take your concerns to the flight deck and supervisors."