Mask Noncompliance Helps Fuel Skyrocketing Number of Air Travel Incidents


If it seems like videos of incidents involving air travelers behaving badly in planes and airports are more prevalent these days, that’s because travelers are indeed engaging in unruly behavior more frequently.

According to a CNN report on newly released data from the Federal Aviation Administration, incidents involving passengers from hell have skyrocketed this year. Typically, the agency counts between 100 and 150 traveler-related incidents in a given year. But that number has increased to 1,300 already in 2021. In addition to the usual suspects such as excessive drinking and general jackassery, mask noncompliance is cited as an underlying driver of the increase.

A separate report about the Transportation Security Administration indicates it has received some 2,000 reports of mask violations on planes, trains, buses, and ferries.

The largest fine the FAA disclosed was levied on a woman who “grabbed a flight attendant’s arm” and “struck the arm of another flight attendant twice and scratched his hand.” She also threw food and an alcohol bottle, all while refusing to comply the federal mask mandate on airplanes. The incident happened on a JetBlue flight from the Dominican Republic to New York, and the outburst prompted the pilot to return to the former after about an hour in flight.

In a separate incident on a Southwest plane sitting on the tarmac, a passenger refused to pull his mask up over his nose. He called flight attendants “pathetic” and struck one of them with his bag. He left the plane.

The rise in reported incidents also stems from a new zero-tolerance policy instituted by FAA administrator Steve Dickson. It was adopted in the wake of unruly passengers traveling to and from the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6. After one incident in which numerous supporters of Donald Trump refusing to wear masks on an Alaska Airlines flight, the carrier banned 14 of them.

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