What mandated the FAA to issue ‘Zero-Tolerance Policy’ for Aviation?

zero tolerance policy

In a piece of recent news, the US’s top aviation official remarked that he is making permanent a zero-tolerance policy designed to curb bad behavior on the US commercial aircraft.

Zero-Tolerance Policy by the FAA

The zero-tolerance policy was the Federal Aviation Administration’s attempt to deal with a rise in reports of passengers acting out on flights. It was one of several actions taken to address security concerns in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. During a statement that followed the official announcement, Billy Nolem, the acting administrator of the FAA, stated: “Behaving dangerously on a plane will cost you; that’s a promise.

In addition to the Zero-Tolerance Policy, FAA issues special orders aimed at cracking down on unruly passengers. The special order signed by then-FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, meant the agency could take immediate action, including issuing civil fines, against passengers who threatened, assaulted, intimidated or otherwise interfered with crew members while on an aircraft. Before the order, the agency often had to take intermediate steps, such as issuing warnings or recommending counseling before moving to more serious punishments.

Prioritized Investigation

While such conflicts have been a problem in the past, the number of reported incidents soared during the COVID-19 pandemic, including reports of crew members being assaulted onboard. In 2021, the FAA received nearly 6,000 reports of unruly behavior on flights, including incidents where individuals assaulted crew members or attempted to bite other passengers. It launched investigations in 1,100 cases.

The majority of the incidents are associated with conflicts over the federal mask mandate, which required travelers to wear masks when flying commercially. The mandate was rescinded this week, a move that many in the industry hope will reduce onboard conflict.

In addition to issuing fines, the FAA also can refer individuals to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. The Justice Department has vouched to prioritize investigations of crimes onboard planes.

Revoking Precheck Status of Passengers

The FAA also is working with the Transportation Security Administration to revoke Precheck status of passengers who have been fined by the FAA. A bill introduced this month in Congress seeks to create a “no-fly” list for unruly passengers. During the pandemic, airlines created “no-fly” lists aimed at keeping passengers who acted out on flights or refused to wear masks off their planes.

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