The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it had received approximately 1,300 reports of disobedient passengers from airlines since February, a statistic that far exceeds the number of passenger misconduct cases the agency has seen in the past.
Of the reported cases, the agency has so far identified potential violations in approximately 260 cases, an FAA spokesman told The Hill on Monday.
The spokesman added that the agency had filed approximately 20 enforcement cases and sent notices to passengers. However, they are preparing “a number of additional enforcement actions”
In a normal year, the FAA will see between 100 and 150 official cases of passenger misconduct annually, NBC News reported on Monday. However, this number has been rising since February, despite the fact that fewer people are traveling due to the pandemic.
According to NBC, disobedient behavior includes passengers refusing to obey orders for masks, excessive drinking and participation in alleged physical or verbal abuse, which the agency partly defines as political intimidation and harassment of lawmakers.
In March, a Colorado man was charged after allegedly refusing to wear a mask while on board an Alaska Airlines flight and urinating in the cockpit while interacting with airline employees.
FAA Administrator Stephen Dixon, according to NBC News, said the influx of disobedient passenger cases was “unacceptable and we will not tolerate interference with the flight crew and the performance of their safety duties.”
In March, the FAA expanded its zero-tolerance policy on misconduct in flight. Under the policy, which was due to expire in late March, passengers could be fined up to $ 35,000 and jailed for assaulting or threatening an airline or passengers.
The Transport Security Administration recently extended its mandate for masks to September, requiring coverage of planes, airports, buses and railways.