- The Federal Aviation Administration announced Wednesday that it will stop issuing warnings to unruly passengers.
- President Trump's supporters acted belligerently on flights and in airports before and after the January 6 riots at the US Capitol.
- Penalties include fines of up to $35,000 and imprisonment.
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Federal officials tightened restrictions on unruly airline passengers following several disruptive incidents on flights in and out of Washington, DC last week.
Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Steve Dickson signed an order Wednesday directing the agency to hand down stricter penalties to passengers who assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with crew members.
"The FAA has seen a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior," the agency said in a statement. "These incidents have stemmed both from passengers' refusals to wear masks and from recent violence at the US Capitol."
Per Dickson's order, the agency will no longer issue warnings or civil penalties to passengers who refuse to wear face masks or are hostile toward crew members. Instead, the FAA will "pursue legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members."
Punishments may include fines of up to $35,000 or imprisonment, the FAA said. The new policy will remain in effect through March 30.
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In the lead up to and in the wake of the January 6 pro-Trump rally-turned-riot in Washington, DC there have been numerous reports and videos of the president's supporters acting belligerently toward airline crew, fellow travelers, and members of Congress.
Passengers on an American Airlines flight from Washington to Phoenix on Friday began chanting "USA," leading the pilot to threaten to "put this plane down in the middle of Kansas and dump people off." One video that depicted the president's supporters berating South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham went viral.
Utah Senator Mitt Romney was also accosted repeatedly both while waiting for a flight and aboard an airplane. Some of President Trump's supporters harassed Romney for not supporting the president's attempt to overturn the results of the November election.
In light of incidents like these, airlines have taken action by banning unruly passengers and ramping up safety efforts.
American Airlines said it would stop serving alcohol on flights to the District for the time being, while Alaska Airlines reported banning 14 rowdy passengers on a single flight from Washington to Seattle the day after the rally.
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