A passenger on a short flight across California faces a more than $40,000 fine for his drunken behavior, which included assaulting a flight attendant and smoking marijuana in the bathroom, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
The passenger is one of eight who faces fines for their unruly conduct in violation of federal regulations. When combined, the passengers face $161,823 in proposed civil penalties. The FAA does not have authority to file criminal charges.
The man, who was not identified, was aboard an April 15 Southwest Airlines flight from San Jose to San Diego. The FAA said flight attendants caught the man drinking his own alcohol, which is prohibited, and continued to do so even after being told it was illegal.
The agency also alleges the man sexually assaulted a flight attendant during the flight and, as the flight descended into San Diego, the man entered the in-flight restroom to smoke marijuana.
The flight crew called law enforcement who took the passenger into custody when the plane touched down on a charge of resisting arrest and public intoxication.
All eight cases involve passengers who were drinking alcohol aboard the flight. Several refused to wear their face masks, the FAA said. In some cases, the airline diverted flights due to the passengers' erratic behavior.
The FAA announced in January stiffer penalties for those who threaten, intimidate or interfere with crewmembers due to an increase in unruly behavior this year.
"I signed an order directing FAA safety inspectors and attornies to pursue legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates or interferes with airline crew members," FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a video PSA message in January. "We will not address these cases through warnings or counseling."
Airlines have reported more than 5,000 incidents of unruly passengers to the FAA this year and the FAA said they have received nearly 300 complaints involving alcohol.
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