The Federal Aviation Administration said that it will make permanent its zero-tolerance policy for disruptive airline passengers, which was implemented after the COVID-19 outbreak.
The policy tweak was just days after a federal court overturned the Biden administration’s mask rule for airline and public transit passengers.
The FAA implemented its zero-tolerance policy in January of last year in response to an increase in reports of disruptive customers attacking airline staff. The policy imposed harsher penalties on such travellers, who had previously received warnings or civil fines.
“Behaving dangerously on a plane will cost you; that’s a promise,” acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said in a statement. “Unsafe behaviour simply does not fly and keeping our Zero Tolerance policy will help us continue making progress to prevent and punish this behaviour.”
According to FAA data, over 6,000 disruptive passengers were recorded last year, with roughly 4,300 of them involving masks. There have been over 1,200 rowdy passenger occurrences so far this year, with roughly 800 involving facial coverings.
The FAA said in November that it was collaborating with the Justice Dept to seek charges against rowdy passengers, and as of Feb. 16, the FAA had referred 80 such cases to the FBI for a criminal inquiry.
Last year, the FAA suggested $5 million in penalties for rowdy passengers under the zero-tolerance rule.