American Airlines Passenger Hit With Stiffest FAA Fine in History Over Alleged Assault Threat Mid-Flight

The Federal Aviation Administration announced its largest proposed fines last week, including one to an American Airlines passenger who allegedly threatened to hurt a flight attendant after they helped her. The FAA proposed an $81,950 fine for the woman, whose name has not been released. The agency also proposed a $77,272 fine for a passenger who tried to hug and kiss a passenger next to her and tried to leave the plane in mid-flight.

The American Airlines passenger was on a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas to Charlotte, North Carolina on July 7, 2021, when a flight attendant offered to help her after she fell into the aisle. Instead of thanking the attendant, the woman allegedly pushed the flight attendant aside and tried to open the cabin door. Two flight attendants tried to restrain the passenger, who then started hitting one of the attendants.

The incident appears to have been captured by a TikTok user, reports the Charlotte Observer. The video was published around the time of the incident, but it has since been deleted. A woman is seen in "visible distress" and was restrained in her seat while other passengers left the plane. The woman was later taken to a hospital for evaluation.

The passenger was eventually restrained using flex duffs, but she continued trying to escape. She spat, headbutted, bit, and tried to kick the crew and other passengers. Police took the woman into custody in Charlotte.

The $77,272 fine was levied against a passenger for an incident on July 16, 2021, Delta Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Atlanta. The passenger allegedly tried to hug and kiss the passenger next to her. Then, the woman walked to the front of the aircraft and tried to leave the plane during the flight. She allegedly refused to go back to her seat and bit another passenger. The flight crew physically restrained the woman.

The U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced the fines during a stop on The View Friday. "If you are on an airplane, don't be a jerk and don't endanger the flight crews and fellow passengers," he said. "If you do, you will be fined by the FAA." The passengers have 30 days to respond to the FAA's letters about the fines.

The FAA has seen an alarming increase in unruly passenger cases. The FAA has proposed about $2 million in fines against unruly passengers since Jan. 1, 2022. In the first eight months of 2021, the FAA received about 3,889 reports of unruly passengers. In August 2021, flight attendants began taking self-defense training classes. However, the FAA said Friday it had seen a 60% decrease in unruly passenger incidents since starting a public awareness campaign reminding Americans of the FAA's Zero Tolerance policy.

"Federal law prohibits interfering with aircraft crew or physically assaulting or threatening to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft," the FAA noted Friday. "Passengers are subject to civil penalties for such misconduct, which can threaten the safety of the flight by disrupting or distracting cabin crew from their safety duties. Additionally, federal law provides for criminal fines and imprisonment of passengers who interfere with the performance of a crewmember's duties by assaulting or intimidating that crewmember."