The US Federal Aviation Administration announced this week that it had proposed a civil penalty of $US10,500 ($A13,574) against a JetBlue passenger whose disruptive behaviour on a flight included coughing and blowing his nose into a blanket.
"The FAA alleges the passenger repeatedly ignored, and was abusive to, flight attendants who instructed him to wear a face mask," the agency said in a news release. "The passenger's disruptive behaviour diverted flight crew members from their duties."
It was just the latest such announcement from the FAA, which has been cracking down on passengers who refuse to wear masks and otherwise disrupt crew members.
US airlines have reported about 1300 cases of unruly passengers to the FAA since February, a huge spike compared to earlier years. The agency said recently it had identified "potential violations" in about 260 cases and had notified passengers of enforcement in about 20 cases. "A number of additional enforcement actions" were in the works, the FAA said.
In March, the agency extended a zero-tolerance policy for unruly passengers that was first announced in January. The Transportation Security Administration last month extended its mask orders for people in airports and on airplanes, trains and buses through September.
The incident that prompted the $US10,500 fine happened on a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles on Dec. 27. While the FAA did not identify the passenger, media reports at the time said JetBlue had banned the rapper Lil Pump for the same behaviour on that date and route.
The performer has railed against mask mandates and said he does not "believe in corona." He could not be reached for comment about the penalty.
According to the news release this week, the FAA also proposed a $US9000 penalty against a passenger who was flying from Los Angeles to Newark on March 16. That passenger's disruptive behaviour allegedly started while he was boarding.
"He yelled, slammed overhead bins, and shouted profanities at the cabin crew, including threatening to harass a flight attendant during the entire flight," the release said. The passenger also cursed at the captain, the FAA said, and was escorted out of the terminal by law enforcement.
It is against federal law to interfere with airline crew, or assault or threaten crew members. Passengers can face civil penalties, criminal fines or imprisonment.
"It's not permissible and we will not tolerate interfering with a flight crew in the performance of their safety duties," FAA administrator Steve Dickson told NBC News recently. "Period."
The Washington Post