Checked bags aren’t the only things that cost extra: Under a new policy announced by the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday, airplane passengers who act like giant assholes by threatening or assaulting crew members could soon be subject to $35,000 in fines or up to 20 years imprisonment.
Here’s looking at you, Plane Karen.
In a press release accompanying the announcement, the FAA does not mince words: Flight attendants are sick to death of emboldened assholes screaming at them, threatening their lives or doing a combination of the two by refusing to wear their masks aboard flights. As of late, the post adds, airline workers have seen “a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior” — incidents that allegedly stem from both covid-19 denialism and “recent violence at the U.S. Capitol.”
For FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, the apparent solution is an order signed on Wednesday that directs stricter legal enforcement against the unruly passengers who would seek to make the lives of airline workers — and the unfortunate passengers forced to travel alongside them — a living hell.
“Flying is the safest mode of transportation and I signed this order to keep it that way,” Dickson said.
Even anecdotally, it truly does seem like people have been on their absolute worst behavior on planes in recent months. As the coronavirus has ravaged America, necessitating new, stricter safety protocols for all airline workers and travelers, reports and videos have emerged showing passengers getting booted from flights for screaming about Donald Trump, screaming about the violent insurrection that took place at the Capitol and screaming about not wanting to wear their masks on the plane because of “tyranny.” More often than not, airline workers are forced to bear the brunt of this shitty behavior, even as new covid restrictions have undoubtedly made their jobs more dangerous and difficult.
As the press release notes, the FAA has historically addressed incidents involving unruly passengers by deploying a variety of methods that have in the past included verbal warnings, counseling attempts and levying civil penalties. Effective March 30, 2021, however, the FAA will no longer issue warnings, but will instead skip straight to legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members.
In a statement, Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, praised the new policy, saying that it amounted to “first strike and you’re out.”
“We applaud FAA Administrator Dickson for taking this clear stand for our safety and security,” Nelson said. “This will help serve as a deterrent to unruly passengers who have been bucking the rules of aviation safety.”