Southwest passengers risk FAA’s biggest alcohol-related fine following arrest in April

FILE – In this archive photo on December 2, 2020, a flight attendant from American Airlines hands out snack bags aboard a Boeing 737 Max jet before taking off from Dallas Fort Worth Airport in Grapevine, Texas. (AP Photo / LM Otero, fil)

WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal officials said Monday they are demanding more than $ 160,000 in fines from eight air passengers for incidents involving alcohol.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the largest single proposed fine, of more than $ 40,000, involved a passenger carrying alcohol on the plane and drinking it, smoking marijuana on the toilet and sexually assaulting a flight attendant on a Southwest Airlines jet in April.

Police arrested the passenger after the plane from San Jose, California, landed in San Diego, and charged the person with resisting arrest and public intoxication, according to the FAA. It was not clear why the passenger was not charged with assault. The FAA does not have the authority to file criminal charges.

The FAA did not identify any of the eight passengers facing a total of $ 161,823 in civil sanctions, although they have the right to contest the charges. In some cases, the airline’s crews diverted flights to land faster due to the erratic behavior of the passengers.

The proposed fines represent the latest salvo in the FAA’s attempt to crack down on unruly passengers on planes, a problem that became much more common starts in January. Airlines have reported more than 5,000 incidents of unruly passengers to the FAA this year.

Most of the incidents have involved passengers refusing to comply with the federal requirement that passengers wear face masks while on airplanes, but nearly 300 have involved intoxicated passengers, according to the FAA.

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