December 4, 2023

Flight attendants demonstrate safety precautions on an American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX aircraft before it takes off on a test flight from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Dallas, Texas on December 2, 2020.

Juliette Michel | AFP | Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday it would continue cracking down on recalcitrant passengers and extending them the zero tolerance policy it implemented in January. According to the agency, airlines have reported more than 500 cases since the end of December.

Most of these cases involved travelers who refused to wear face masks that both airlines and the federal government require for commercial air travel, according to the FAA.

“I have decided to extend the FAA’s zero tolerance policy for unruly passengers as we continue to do everything we can to counter the pandemic,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement. “The policy instructs our security inspectors and lawyers to take strong enforcement action against any passenger who disrupts or threatens the safety of a flight. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment. The number of cases we see is still far too high high. and it tells us that urgent action is still needed. “

The FAA will maintain its zero tolerance policy for at least as long as the federal mask mandate is in place.

According to the federal government, cases of recalcitrant passengers increased per capita in 2020. Flight attendant unions have raised safety concerns about unruly travelers, particularly after the January 6 pro-Trump uprising at the Capitol.

“Administrator Dickson’s strong zero tolerance stance in January has supported us and this is no time to lose our vigilance,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which has approximately 50,000 cabin crew members with more than 50,000 Representatives represents a dozen airlines.

“The patchwork, the politically distorted discussion about masks, has created confusion and conflict,” she said in a statement. “We have no time for non-compliance with the federal mask mandate. This behavior endangers everyone on an airplane and we cannot stand for it.”