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US officials seek big fines against more airline passengers

Airlines say they've had more than 1,300 unruly passengers this year. Many of the cases involve passengers who appear intoxicated or refuse to wear face masks.

WASHINGTON — Federal officials are going after more airline passengers accused of disrupting flights.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday that it will seek fines totaling more than $100,000 against four passengers on flights in the last several months.

The biggest is a proposed civil penalty of $52,500 against a man who was arrested after trying to open the cockpit door and striking a flight attendant in the face. The FAA said the incident took place on Dec. 23, 2020, on a Delta Air Lines flight from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Seattle, Washington.

RELATED: FAA warns passengers: Listen to flight crews or face possible jail time

RELATED: Passengers who flouted mask rules face thousands in fines, FAA says

Another case the FAA highlighted on Monday took place on Jan. 1, 2020, during a Southwest Airlines flight from Phoenix, Arizona, to Chicago, Illinois. The agency is fining a passenger $27,000 for yelling and forcefully banging his hands on the seat in front of him, disturbing nearby passengers. The passenger is also accused of yelling during the flight that he was going to kill someone and that he had a bomb and was going to blow up the aircraft. 

Airlines say they've had more than 1,300 unruly passengers this year. Many of the cases involve passengers who appear intoxicated or refuse to wear face masks.

The FAA said it was also charging another passenger $18,500 for a disturbance during a Feb. 5, 2021, flight from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Las Vegas, Nevada, where the passenger drank his own alcohol and became disruptive.

RELATED: Passengers who drank own alcohol, disrupted flights face hefty FAA fines

"The flight attendant told him multiple times that he could not drink his personal alcohol on the flight, but the passenger continued to do so," according to the FAA. "Additionally, flight attendants told him he had to wear his facemask over his mouth and nose unless he was eating or drinking, but he continually removed his facemask or wore it improperly."

The final fine proposed by the FAA on Monday was $9,000 for a passenger on a Feb. 15, 2021, Allegiant Air flight from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Knoxville, Tennessee. The agency said a flight attendant repeatedly asked a passenger to properly wear her face mask, but she rolled her eyes and refused. At one point during the flight, the female passenger came to the front of the plane to use the lavatory and sat in the exit row because the lavatory was occupied. After the flight attendant told her that she couldn't sit in the exit row, the passenger began screaming, with her mask not over her mouth or nose.

Federal law prohibits anyone from interfering with aircraft crew or physically assaulting or threatening to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft. The FAA said that passengers are subject to civil penalties because such misconduct can threaten the safety of the flight by disrupting or distracting cabin crew from their safety duties.