In addition to throwing food, the woman allegedly hit a flight attendant twice, scratched the crew member’s hand and grabbed another flight attendant by the arm, hurting her. The disturbance prompted the pilot to return to the Dominican Republic.
In another incident, a Southwest Airlines passenger faces $16,500 in fines for refusing to wear a mask and using “combative” and “offensive” language on a Jan. 26 flight from Chicago to Sacramento, the FAA said. After being asked repeatedly to wear a mask over his nose and mouth, the man was asked by a Southwest supervisor to leave the plane. The passenger complied but as he walked to the exit, he called two flight attendants “pathetic” and hit one with a bag.
Two travelers face $9,000 in fines in other cases.
In one case, a Delta Air Lines passenger on a Dec. 22 flight from Minneapolis to Philadelphia got out of her seat during takeoff and began walking up and down the aisle, repeatedly saying she wanted to get off the aircraft, the FAA said. When a flight attendant asked her to return to her seat, the passenger refused, prompting the flight to return to Minneapolis.
The second incident took place on a Jan. 30 flight from Bozeman, Mont., to Seattle and involved a passenger on an Alaska Airlines flight who refused to wear a mask. Flight attendants asked the man repeatedly to wear a mask while the plane was at the gate and as it taxied to the runway, but officials said he refused. The plane returned to the gate and the man was removed from the flight.
In January, the FAA announced that it would take more aggressive action against passengers who refused to follow crew members’ instructions on commercial aircraft. The special order, signed by FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, followed several in-flight disturbances linked to the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol. The program, which was set to expire in March, was extended indefinitely.
The FAA’s “zero-tolerance policy” is part of an effort to ensure compliance with crew member instructions, including a federal requirement put in place by the Biden administration that people wear masks when flying. The Transportation Security Administration, which is charged with enforcing the mandate in other transportation settings, including at airports and on buses, trains and subway systems, recently announced that it was extending enforcement of the requirement through Sept. 13.
FAA officials said this week that they have received more than 1,300 complaints about unruly passengers since February and are investigating at least 260 cases in which passengers did not comply with orders. At a hearing Wednesday, acting TSA administrator Darby LaJoye said the agency had received 2,000 reports of people refusing to follow the requirement, the vast majority of which involved people on airplanes.