You might have mistakenly thought that if you assault a flight attendant an airline can only come after you in a civil case. That is not correct. Two anti-maskers now face fines from the Federal Aviation Administration for their poor behavior onboard.
Anti-Maskers Face Steep Fines After Flight Attendant Assault
Case #1: Allegiant Passenger Hits, Then Grabs Phone From Flight Attendant
As the FAA describes it:
In August 2020, a passenger on an Allegiant Air flight from Clearwater, Florida, to Mascoutah, Illinois, repeatedly screamed obscenities at and hit a flight attendant, and grabbed the phone from the flight attendant while he was speaking with the captain about the passenger’s behavior over a face-covering dispute.
The flight diverted and the passenger was offloaded.
Assault is putting another person in reasonable apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contact. Battery is unconsented physical contact with another person, even where the contact is not violent but merely menacing or offensive.
I’d say the passenger is guilty of both assault and battery here.
In response, the FAA has proposed a $15,000 fine.
Case #2: United Express Passenger Removes Masks, Hassles Other Passengers, Grabs Buttocks of Flight Attendant
As the FAA describes it:
Also in August 2020, a passenger on a SkyWest Airlines flight from Atlanta, Georgia, to Chicago, Illinois, removed their face covering, continually bothered other passengers and, at one point, grabbed a flight attendant’s buttock as she walked by the passenger’s row of seats, the FAA alleges.
In response, the FAA has proposed a $7,500 fine.
The Root Of The Fines
Note the passengers are not being fined for their refusal to wear masks, but for their poor behavior that followed their refusal to wear masks.
Even so, the common nucleus in both cases is the anti-mask sentiment of both passengers. It is conceivable that even if the assault and battery did not occur, a fine might still have applied. That’s because of the 49 USC 46504 provides a broader prohibition against interfering with or intimidating crew members:
An individual on an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States who, by assaulting or intimidating a flight crew member or flight attendant of the aircraft, interferes with the performance of the duties of the member or attendant or lessens the ability of the member or attendant to perform those duties, or attempts or conspires to do such an act, shall be fined under title 18, imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or both. However, if a dangerous weapon is used in assaulting or intimidating the member or attendant, the individual shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
We are not that test yet, though it is conceivable that even without a national mask mandate you could be fined for simply not wearing your mask and thereby forcing a diversion.
I’m glad to see the FAA step in to punish those two inconsiderate louts who forced diversion and assaulted flight attendants. But thee FAA intervention is a reminder of its statutory authority to intervene even absent assault or battery.
Should such anti-maskers flight attendant assault be punished even more severely?
(H/T: View from the Wing // image: Allegiant)