Unruly passengers can lose TSA PreCheck: 'If you act out of line, you will wait in line'

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Airplane passengers who act up during flights could face a new consequence: losing PreCheck, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday. 

The FAA will provide the TSA with information about passengers who face fines for bad behavior, and those passengers could be removed from PreCheck eligibility under a new information-sharing partnership between the two agencies. The agreement is the government’s latest effort to get a grip on a problem that has vexed airlines and regulators all year. 

While it is unclear how many offenders use PreCheck, a trusted-traveler program that allows fliers to avoid certain security-screening nuisances and wait in shorter lines, officials are hoping the additional consequence will have an impact. PreCheck eligibility is reserved for "low-risk travelers," the agencies said. 

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A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) PreCheck sign is displayed at Los Angeles International Airport in California on Oct. 25, 2018.  (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

"If you act out of line, you will wait in line," FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said. TSA will also share information with the FAA to help identify and locate unruly passengers to serve them with penalty notices, the agencies said. 

The FAA has initiated 315 enforcement cases against passengers this year for behavior ranging from verbal threats to physical assault on other passengers and crew. There have been 5,664 reports of unruly passengers this year as of Dec. 14, according to the FAA, and 1,030 investigations have been initiated. In 2019, the FAA initiated fewer than 150 investigations into passenger behavior. 

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Rates of such incidents have fallen since the start of the year but have remained elevated compared with previous years, according to FAA figures. 

Many of the incidents involve disputes over masks, which are federally mandated on planes and in airports. Alcohol also plays a big role, the FAA and flight attendants say. 

FAA regulations already prohibit passengers on flights from consuming alcohol that isn’t served by airlines. This summer, the FAA asked airports to ease up on sales of to-go alcoholic drinks. Some airlines have been holding off on selling alcohol in coach cabins to avoid contributing to problems. 

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A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) pre-check sign at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, on Aug. 19, 2015. ( Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The FAA has proposed hefty fines for those who act out, but many of those who have incurred them have been able to show they don’t have financial assets to pay the full amounts. The FAA also can’t prosecute criminal cases, though it has started referring the most egregious cases to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

"This partnership with FAA will help ensure the safety and security of all passengers and hold those who violate federal regulations accountable for their actions," said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. 

This article first appeared in the Wall Street Journal 

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