FAA seeing slight drop in unruly passengers over past week

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Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data shows that the rate of unruly passenger incidents fell slightly over the past week. 

There were about 6.7 reported incidents per 10,000 flights for the week ending Oct. 17, according to the agency's latest figures. This is down slightly from late September when there were approximately 7.1 reported incidents per week. 

Orlando Airport, Delta commuter jet, flight attendant.  (Getty / Getty Images)

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However, the rate of unruly incidents has dropped significantly, approximately 50%, from record highs reported at the beginning of the year, according to the FAA. However, the agency noted that more work still needs to be done, especially with cases still climbing. 

Even with the threat of tens of thousands of dollars in fines, there have been a total of 4,941 unruly passenger reports from flight crews in 2021. Mask-related incidents have accounted for 3,580 of them, according to the FAA.

Rate of reported unruly passenger incidents per 10,000 flights.  (FAA)

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About 923 investigations and about 216 enforcement cases have been initiated, according to the FAA. 

At the beginning of the year, the FAA adopted a zero-tolerance policy after seeing a "disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior," the FAA said. These incidents have stemmed both from passengers’ refusals to wear masks and from recent violence at the U.S. Capitol.

Under the Jan. 13 order signed by FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson, unruly passengers no longer get warnings. Instead, the agency instituted a stricter legal enforcement policy. Penalties can include hefty fines and jail terms for passengers who assault or threaten airline crews or other passengers.

FAA STATS SHOW UNRULY PASSENGERS ARE ON THE RISE

Under the FAA's Reauthorization Bill, the agency can propose up to $37,000 per violation. One reported incident, however, can lead to multiple violations, according to the agency.

Cabin crew with facemask showing the safety demonstration.  (Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images / Getty Images)

"Flying is the safest mode of transportation and I signed this order to keep it that way," Dickson said when signing the order. 

However, his threat has still not deterred some passengers. In fact, the FAA issued $531,545 in civil penalties to 34 airline passengers in August. To date, the agency has issued more than $1 million in levies for 2021 alone.  

As a result of the mounting incidents in 2021, the FAA sent a letter to airports this month urging them to coordinate more closely with local law enforcement to prosecute the cases.  

While the FAA can propose fines against passengers, the agency can't prosecute criminal cases. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  

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