Another statistic that has just returned to pre-pandemic levels is the rate of unruly passenger incidents on commercial flights.
On April 18th of this year, a federal judge in Florida struck down the national mask mandate for public transportation. One week later the rate of passenger incidents on flights fell to its lowest level since the start of the pandemic, according to Fox Business. The Federal Aviation Administration reported that 70% of incidents involved the enforcement of masking.
There were 1.9 reported incidents per 10,000 flights in the week ending April 24, the FAA noted, compared to the prior week where there were 4.4 reported incidents per 10,000 flights.
One might conclude being allowed to breathe again while riding on a plane would be the primary contributing factor to more docile passengers but that’s not the whole story.
The FAA also implemented a zero-tolerance policy for disruptive passenger behavior in January of 2021. Instead of a verbal slap on the wrist which they refer to as counseling, the FAA has been issuing fines for unacceptable behavior.
The FAA credits this zero-tolerance policy with the decrease in incidents and has provided this chart to illustrate that:
The chart purports to show the effect these fines have had on passenger behavior. Prior to the policy being implemented, unruly behavior was at a high of 12 incidents per 10,000 flights but quickly dropped to under 8. While the zero-tolerance policy did decrease disruptive behavior, there was still a heightened rate of incidents until the mask mandate was finally lifted.
Despite the heavy fines, there still seemed to be 4 to 8 passengers per 10,000 willing to risk a financial penalty in order to make a scene about wearing a mask.
New Unruly Passenger Numbers since 1/1/2022:
– 1,311 reports of unruly passengers
– 415 investigations initiated
– 212 FAA enforcement cases initiated
Unruly Passenger Rate as of 4/24/22: 1.9 incidents per 10K flightshttps://t.co/ISiblzAzGi #FlySmart #MayThe4thBeWithYou pic.twitter.com/0W7ijVhGnb
— The FAA ✈️ (@FAANews) May 4, 2022
Though the mask mandates have been lifted and incidents are back to normal, the FAA can still count on an average of 2.54 incidents per 10,000 flights in order to collect their fines. Earlier this year the FAA issued their largest fines ever of $81,950 and $77,272 from two passengers in two separate incidents, Fox Business reported. In the first incident, a woman was accused of spitting, head butting, and biting a crew member and it’s safe to assume that she was not wearing her mask either. The second fine was issued when a woman attempted to hug and kiss the passenger next to her and then exit the plane out of the main cabin door while the plane was airborne.
Flying should be a more pleasant experience for everyone now that violent outbursts and disruptive incidents have normalized, and there is no forced masking, but these fines don’t sound like they are going away any time soon.
In fact, the FAA has collected more than $2 million dollars in fines since 2021. One can’t help but find irony in a government agency recouping the costs of inflation by fining people who didn’t want to wear a mask.
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