FAA’s power to punish needs to be stronger, some in Congress say

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNN) – The FAA is proposing more than a half-million dollars in new fines against unruly commercial airline passengers.

The passengers, sometimes under the influence of drugs or alcohol, are refusing to wear masks, throwing luggage and hitting flight attendants.

Ugly incidents in the air are skyrocketing. And now, federal authorities are detailing the most incidents yet of unruly passengers facing federal fines.

Just-released documents are giving the blow-by-blow of passengers allegedly punching fellow fliers in the face, snorting what appeared to be cocaine, storming the flight deck, and even threatening to kill a flight attendant.

The Federal Aviation Administration is proposing more than a half-million dollars in new fines, bringing the total to more than a million dollars since the agency enacted a zero-tolerance policy earlier this year.

Flight crews have reported 3,800 unruly passengers to the FAA just this year. But the agency has initiated enforcement action in only 120 cases.

Now, some in Congress say the FAA’s power to punish is too limited and the FBI should pursue putting passengers in prison.

House Transportation Chair Peter Defazio (D-OR) said, “The first time we take one of these jerks who’s assaulting flight attendants and or attempting to take an aircraft down then they go away for a few years and they get a massive fine. I think that will send a message to others out there who are thinking about acting out.”

The largest new fine proposed by the FAA is against a passenger accused of throwing his luggage at another passenger, laying on the aisle floor, then “grabbing a flight attendant by the ankles and putting his head up her skirt.” That flight from New York to Orlando was forced to land early in Virginia.

Two-thirds of new fines involve passengers violating the transportation mask mandate-and about a quarter involve passengers illegally bringing their own alcohol on board.

Now, the FAA is pleading with airports to crack down on to-go alcohol sales to help ground unruly passengers before they ever get in the air.

In an effort to cut down on problems, American Airlines just announced it’s extending its ban on alcohol sales until next January.

The airline says it’s also working in its major hubs like Charlotte and Dallas to keep passengers from bringing their own booze on board.

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