Airlines' latest troubles: Unruly passengers drinking, smoking, refusing to wear masks

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Four additional airline passengers may be slapped with hefty fines for allegedly disobeying flight attendants and flouting federal regulations, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 

The passengers are facing proposed civil penalties ranging from $7,500 to $15,500 as part of the FAA’s zero-tolerance policy, which was created in January after the agency saw an increase in "disturbing" incidents involving unruly passengers. 

The four latest incidents stem from flights in February.

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One episode has a JetBlue Airlines passenger accused of refusing to wear a mask despite being requested to do so "at least 10 times." The passenger also "drank mini bottles of alcohol that JetBlue did not serve to him, which is against FAA regulations," according to the agency. 

Another JetBlue passenger allegedly refused to wear a facemask properly and "in one instance inserted her finger into her nose in response to a flight attendant’s direction to wear her mask." That same passenger began to yell and use profanity and even refused to read a warning note issued by a flight attendant, forcing the captain to divert the flight, the FAA said. 

Travelers walk through in Salt Lake City International Airport, Tuesday, March 9, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

In another instance, an Alaska Airlines passenger was allegedly caught smoking an e-cigarette in the airplane lavatory. The passenger also allegedly repeatedly ignored flight attendants’ instructions to wear his facemask properly and even "walked through the cabin without his facemask over his mouth and nose." 

The other passenger facing a potential fine also allegedly refused to comply with the face mask policy, according to the FAA.

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In January, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson officially signed the zero-tolerance order, creating a stricter enforcement policy against unruly airline passengers after seeing a "disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior."  

Since Jan 1, the FAA received 3,000 reports of "unruly behavior," about 2,300 of which were reports of passengers refusing to wear masks.

Masks, according to federal officials, are still required on "planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States." They are also required in transportation hubs such as airports as well as train and bus stations, according to the FAA and the Transportation Security Administration.

FAA ISSUES PENALTIES TO ALLEGEDLY DISRUPTIVE AIRLINE PASSENGERS

It is against federal law to interfere with aircraft crew or "physically assaulting or threatening to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft," the FAA said in a press release. 

Those who do "are subject to civil penalties for such misconduct, which can threaten the safety of the flight by disrupting or distracting cabin crew from their safety duties," the agency added. 

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