The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is proposing a $52,500 fine against a passenger who brutally attacked a Delta Air Lines flight attendant. Is the fine too little, too much, or just right?
Delta Passenger Faces Stiff FAA Fine After Brutal Flight Attendant Attack
On December 23, 2020, a Delta Air Lines flight from Honolulu (HNL) to Seattle (SEA) ran into trouble after man:
- Tried to open the cockpit door
- Repeatedly refused to comply with crew members’ instructions
- Physically assaulted a flight attendant by striking him in the face and pushing him to the floor
- Threatened the flight attendant by charging at him as he was trying to restrain the passenger
- Flight attendants placed plastic handcuffs on the disruptive passenger
- Freed himself from one of the handcuffs and struck the flight attendant in the face a second time
Police met aircraft in Seattle and arrested the passenger. The FAA is now proposing a $52,500 fine.
I find myself of mixed opinion on the appropriateness of these fines. Frankly, $52,500 sounds like a slap on the wrist considering the nature of the passenger’s conduct. Should this fine be means-tested or if a guy can afford a trip from Honolulu to Seattle, he must be doing all right? What about jail time? Your gut reaction (mine too…) may be to let the guy rot in prison, but will that keep him from acting out again or simply waste taxpayer dollars?
I believe restitution to the flight attendant is the most appropriate path. He struck a flight attendant in the face, pushed him to the floor, threatened him, charged at him again, then wiggled out of his plastic handcuffs, then struck the flight attendant in the face again.
This is brutal stuff, folks.
When a British Airways crew was attacked by passengers under similar circumstances, a judge ordered the passengers to pay restitution directly to the flight attendants.
And yet I, speaking broadly as a taxpayer, don’t want to pay to lock him up. The guy may be a menace to society and danger to himself, but I’m willing to risk relapse by shaming him, fining him, and banning him from flying before placing him in prison.
The passenger should be grateful for the fine over prosecution. While I have some reservations about the ability of the FAA simply to fine a passenger without due process, in reality due process exists: this is a settlement offer to avoid prosecution. And I’m okay with that.
To some degree, all of this is a process of trial and error. These incidents, often related to either masks or alcohol, seem to be increasing in frequency. Finding the right public policy to stop this behavior may take some time.
As the FAA becomes more aggressive in fining passengers for poor behavior onboard, I hope the fines and publicity surrounding them will act as a powerful deterrent to acting poorly onboard aircraft. I don’t know what went through the mind of this passenger, if anything at all, before his brutal attack, but using the right tools to punish him and discourage copycats is hardly an easy process.
image: Ian Abbott