Hijackings and drunken flights: US Federal Aviation Administration releases information on the worst passengers of 2021

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released details of violations of aviation regulations as part of its zero tolerance stance amidst a massive rise in unruly mid-air behaviour this year.

Since January 1, the FAA has received around 3270 reports of unruly behaviour by passengers, including about 2475 reports of passengers refusing to comply with the federal facemask mandate. 

Below are examples of some of the most noteworthy incidents.

From flying glamour, to in the slammer

A passenger on a Frontier Airlines flight from Nashville to Orlando allegedly drank alcohol that had not been served or authorised by Frontier Airlines staff.

He failed to comply with flight crew instructions to stop drinking the alcohol and refused to wear a facemask. It's alleged the passenger then began fighting with a flight attendant and nearby passengers about the facemask policy. 

The flight attendant issued the passenger a "red card" for failing to comply with the facemask instructions, but he continued to argue with nearby passengers, even striking a passenger next to him on the head. 

The flight attendant reseated him in another row, notified the captain of the disturbance, and requested law enforcement to meet him at the gate upon arrival.

Fine: US$21,500

On a Republic Airlines flight from Indianapolis to Philadelphia, it's alleged a female passenger was repeatedly told to wear a facemask properly prior to boarding, and again during the boarding process. 

During a flight attendant's cabin check, the passenger was told to wear her seatbelt and facemask. During taxi from the gate, the passenger threatened a passenger in front of her when they closed the window shade. A flight attendant again instructed the party to settle down and wear their facemasks, but they did not comply. 

The woman and her travel group were also playing "loud, obscene music" and directed obscene language toward the flight attendants and other passengers. 

The crew notified the captain, and the plane returned to the gate where law enforcement met the passenger. When the captain left the cockpit to notify the passenger that she was being removed from the flight, she began to argue and use obscene language with the captain. 

As she stood up to leave the aircraft, she punched the female passenger who was seated in front of her, holding a small infant, in the back of the head.

Fine: US$18,500 

A passenger on a Frontier Airlines flight from St Louis to Las Vegas allegedly refused to wear his facemask during the boarding process despite direct instructions from the cabin crew.

A flight attendant had to pause the preflight safety demonstration twice to tell him to hang up his phone, put it on airplane mode, and wear his mask

During the final descent, the passenger unbuckled his seatbelt, stood up, and moved to a different seat closer to the front of the aircraft. He ignored crew instructions that it was unsafe to be unbuckled and move about the cabin at that time.

Fine: US$17,000

The FAA alleges that as an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Ketchikan was preparing to depart from the gate a passenger made a 911 call reporting that the aircraft was being hijacked.

He told the 911 dispatcher that a man was holding up a flight attendant at knifepoint near the front of the aircraft and repeatedly asked the dispatcher to stop the flight. While the aircraft was taxiing to the runway, he left his seat twice to enter the toilet, despite flight attendant instructions to stay seated. 

Due to the 911 calls, the pilots taxied the aircraft to a cargo ramp where law enforcement met the flight. Law enforcement boarded the aircraft armed with rifles and evacuated passengers and crew. 

While at the cargo ramp, the passenger called the FBI and made mention of a bomb. The aircraft was temporarily taken out of service for bomb screening. Law enforcement also screened all passengers and crew as a result of the passenger's comments. All of the passenger's claims were false and resulted in a multi-hour delay of the flight.

Fine: US$10,500 

A passenger on another Frontier Airlines flight to Las Vegas, this time from San Diego, continued to drink alcohol that wasn't served by the airline, and repeatedly removed her mask to do so.

Fine: US$13,000

On an Allegiant Air flight from Provo inUtah, to Mesa, Arizona, the FAA alleges a passenger refused to wear his facemask over his mouth and nose throughout the flight. 

Flight attendants instructed him seven separate times to wear his facemask properly, and each time he moved it off of his nose after the flight attendant walked away. 

When told that he needed to cooperate and provide information to fill out a passenger disturbance report, he argued with the flight attendant, refused to provide his identification, said he would continue to pull his facemask down, and claimed that it was fine just over his mouth. 

After the plane landed, he approached a flight attendant from behind as she prepared to open the cabin door and touched her. He stated that she was being aggressive about the facemask policy and got very close to her while complaining about her enforcement of the policy. 

This behavior intimidated the flight attendant and caused her to cry.   

Fine: US$10,500

The FAA alleges that while the fasten-seatbelt sign was on during a period of moderate turbulence, a passenger got out of his seat to use the toilet. 

Flight attendants onboard the Allegiant Air flight from Syracuse, to Punta Gorda, told him it was unsafe to do so, he argued that he was drinking at the airport for five hours prior to the flight. Flight attendants allowed him to use the toilet, but upon exiting, he nearly fell on the flight attendants three times and argued with them about being allowed out of his seat. He was not wearing his facemask, and flight attendants reminded him to wear it several times. 

After flight attendants got him in his seat, he began vaping despite flight attendant instructions to stop. Throughout the rest of the flight he continued to vape, not wear his facemask, and get out of his seat. The captain called for law enforcement to meet the passenger at the gate.

Fine: US$10,500 

Upon boarding a Southwest Airlines flight from Denver to Los Angeles, flight attendants instructed a passenger twice to wear his facemask properly. 

He moved it below his nose and mouth both times. A Southwest Airlines customer service supervisor boarded the aircraft to speak with him about his non-compliance and provided him a facemask that would fit properly after he told flight attendants that his mask was broken. 

As the supervisor left, he again pulled his facemask below his nose and mouth. The supervisor returned and asked him to get off the aircraft, but the passenger refused. As a result, the airline had every passenger deplane. The non-compliant passenger was not allowed to reboard. His actions caused the flight to be delayed by 38 minutes.

Fine: US$7500