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Mask disputes account for 75% of complaints from unruly FAA passengers on planes

A traveler wearing a face mask is seen at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia on February 2, 2021.

Ting Shen | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

The majority of the Federal Aviation Administration’s unruly passenger reports on planes come from passengers refusing to comply with mask warrants put in place to guard against the spread of Covid-19.

About 75% of unruly passenger reports since Jan. 1 started with people unwilling to wear their masks and then turned into profanity, shouting matches or even physical violence, the agency said on Tuesday.

The FAA implemented a “zero tolerance” policy earlier this year with heavy fines aimed at curbing unruly passengers after an increase in incidents, but that hasn’t stopped travelers from insulting airline employees. flights, disrupting flights and even knocking two teeth out of the mouth of a flight attendant.

“It’s out of control,” said Paul Hartshorn, spokesperson for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents more than 20,000 American Airlines cabin crew. “It really gets to the point where we have to defend ourselves.”

Current federal mask warrants require travelers on trains, buses, commercial flights, and at airports to wear face masks. The term, which was extended in the spring, is currently due to expire on September 13.

The FAA has fined fake travelers a total of $ 682,000 so far this year and identified potential violations in 540 cases, taking enforcement action in 83.

The agency on Tuesday disclosed details of eight cases in which unruly travelers were fined between $ 7,500 and $ 21,500 over disputes over their refusal to wear masks, including two cases where passengers collided with other passengers.

Flights have been delayed and even diverted by unruly passengers, many of whom refuse to wear face masks properly or not at all. The agency does not reveal the identity of the fined passengers, but says passengers have 30 days to dispute the fines.

Health officials generally consider air travel to be safe when it comes to Covid, but said it hinged on passengers’ compliance with mask warrants and other guidelines.

“Although we have seen cases of transmission on airplanes overall, it is a safe mode of travel even from a Covid perspective,” said Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the health emergency program from the World Health Organization, during a briefing Monday. “The problem is what happens when you get to your destination, what you are exposed to and what you bring home.”

Health officials are also warning against unnecessary travel, especially with the rise of the highly contagious delta variant, as many people look to overseas vacations to make up for more than a year of pandemic lockdown at the House.

“No one is saying it’s not safe to go on vacation, but we’re trying to say now is not the time to fully open up to it,” Ryan said.

– CNBC’s Leslie Josephs contributed to this report.

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