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Unruly Airline Passengers Face Consequences

Passengers head to planes at the San Diego International Airport on June 24, 2020.
Erik Anderson
Passengers head to planes at the San Diego International Airport on June 24, 2020.

As airline travel increases to pre-pandemic numbers, there has been a rise in unruly passenger behavior. Just this week a Southwest passenger was arrested in San Diego and charged with attacking and injuring a flight attendant.

Both the FAA and TSA are now enforcing strict consequences for those who cause a disturbance.

Unruly Airline Passengers Face Consequences
Listen to this story by Melissa Mae

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said Wednesday he’s been appalled by unruly and dangerous behavior on commercial flights recently.

“Since January 1st, we've received more than 2,500 unruly passenger reports. We've never seen numbers like this before,” Dickson said.

“Flight attendants are out on the front lines right now," said Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants. "And some are actually punching bags for the public. And it is unacceptable.”

RELATED: Flight Attendant Loses 2 Teeth In Assault By Passenger After Flight Lands In San Diego

Nelson noted that flight attendants are quitting because of the physical and verbal assaults they are facing from the public.


Passengers should be aware that anyone who interferes with, physically assaults or threatens to physically assault anyone else on the aircraft, including the flight crew could face up to a $35,000 fine and imprisonment.

TSA Spokesperson, Lorie Dankers said TSA officers are also facing adversity. Nationwide, more than 50 TSA officers have been assaulted this year.

“If anything does happen in the security checkpoint, we would make a law enforcement notification,” Dankers noted.

People who are noncompliant in an airport security checkpoint could face both civil and criminal charges in the form of fines and jail time.

Travel Safe

The airport’s newest technologies in security checkpoints are helping officers do their jobs better.

One is called Credential Authentication Technology.

“We’re able to pull up, not only from your ID, your basic biographical information, but also your flight information for the day," Dankers said. "The TSA officer on screen will be able to verify that you’re ticketed for travel in real time without your boarding pass.”

CT scanners have been put into place to reduce TSA officers having to do a bag check.

“Make a 3-D image of the contents of the carry-on luggage. Now, this is important because that 3-D image is a clearer view for our officer to be able to see what’s in the bag to determine if there is a security threat,” Dankers said.

The TSA recommends getting to the airport two hours early and coming to the security checkpoint prepared.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.