Bad Behavior In The Sky Surged In 2021, FAA Records Show

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released their annual report showing 2021 as a bad year for unruly passenger behavior.

The FAA website recorded 5,981 unruly passenger reports in the U.S. for 2021, with 4,290 of the incidents relating to masks, a report updated Tuesday shows. FAA numbers shows that 2021 was the worst for unruly behavior on airplanes, CNN reported.

The FAA saw passenger incidents as of September 2021 happening at a rate twice as high as late 2020, according to a Sept. 23 FAA news release. Due to a rise in unruly passenger behavior at the end of 2020, the FAA began recording cases in 2021, according to CNN.

The transportation agency also adopted a Zero Tolerance policy in January 2021 to combat unruly passenger behavior, allowing the FAA to bypass warnings and pursue legal action against “any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members,” according to a digital FAA toolkit on the policy. Passengers can face up to $37,000 in fines per violation, and one incident can incur several violations under the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.

The FAA previously only collected data on the frequency of investigations conducted each year since 1995. The average number of investigations per year from 1995 to 2020 was 182, compared to 1,081 investigations initiated in 2021, CNN reported. (RELATED: Passenger Reportedly Storms Cockpit, Damages Plane)

Besides “extremely violent” cases of unruly passenger behavior in 2021, there have been “a lot of incidents that are happening more regularly that are violent maybe not directly toward someone, but in actions and words: punching backs of seats, spitting, throwing trash at people, yelling obscenities, using racial, gender and homophobic slurs,” International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, Sara Nelson, told CNN Travel.

FAA data recorded 76 unruly passenger reports so far for 2022, in addition to one investigation initiated.