FAA seeks USD27,500 from passenger it says hit air attendant

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal officials are seeking a USD27,500 civil penalty against an airline passenger who allegedly struck a flight attendant who asked the woman and her companion to leave the plane after a dispute over wearing a face mask.

The confrontation on board a Delta Air Lines flight departing from Miami International Airport (MIA) for Atlanta began when the passenger’s companion refused to wear a mask, secure his tray table or fasten his seatbelt, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Friday. Delta, like most airlines, requires most passengers to wear masks except when eating or drinking.

Pilots returned the plane to the gate, and the pair was asked to disembark. The female passenger began yelling at the flight attendant and other passengers, then hit the flight attendant under her left eye, according to the FAA.

The FAA did not identify the passengers. The woman has 30 days to respond to the proposed penalty. The FAA said it appears that she violated a federal regulation against assaulting a crew member, which carries a civil penalty of up to USD35,000. The FAA announced tighter enforcement of rules against disturbances on planes after several rowdy incidents in early January on flights to and from Washington.

An electronic sign warns travellers to maintain social distance in the terminal of Denver International Airport. PHOTO: AP