Passenger faces record $52,500 fine over ruckus on Seattle-bound flight, FAA says

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A passenger on a Seattle-bound flight is facing a possible $52,500 fine in an attack on a flight attendant, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The incident took place on a Delta Airlines flight from Honolulu on Dec. 23, 2020, according to a news release from the FAA.

“This is the largest penalty we have proposed since our zero-tolerance policy went into effect earlier this year,” Ian Gregor, a spokesperson for the agency, told McClatchy News in an email.

The FAA implemented its zero-tolerance policy in January after seeing “a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior,” and extended the policy in March, according to the agency.

“These incidents have stemmed both from passengers’ refusals to wear masks and from recent violence at the U.S. Capitol,” a January news release from the FAA reads. “The FAA will not address these cases with warnings or counseling. The agency will pursue legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members.”

About 90 minutes before the Delta flight arrived in Seattle, the accused passenger, who was not identified, tried to open the door to the cockpit and repeatedly refused to listen to crew members, according to a letter sent to the passenger by the agency.

He then struck a flight attendant in the face and pushed him to the floor, the FAA said.

The passenger charged at the flight attendant, who was trying to restrain the passenger, before crew members and another traveler intervened and placed the man in handcuffs, according to the agency.

It didn’t stop there, though: The passenger was able to free one of his hands and hit the flight attendant in the face a second time before crew members could restrain him again, the FAA said.

After the flight landed, Seattle police arrested the passenger and took him into custody.

The passenger has 30 days to respond to the FAA, giving him “an opportunity to submit the suggested amount in settlement” of $52,500 or provide more information, according to the letter.

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