Over 200 unruly airline passengers reported January, still far below a year ago

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) received over 200 reports of airline unruly passengers just a few weeks into 2022, yet it's still far below what the figures were a year ago. 

According to FAA data, airlines reported 228 incidents of passengers exhibiting unruly behavior, with the majority of them, 139, mask-related. 

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The FAA started investigations into 32 of those reported cases and initiated enforcement action in 12 cases, which means the FAA is in the process of levying fines for those passengers.   

Travelers queue up in long lines to pass through the south security checkpoint in Denver International Airport in Denver.  (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File / AP Newsroom)

A year ago though, the FAA was forced to implement its zero-tolerance policy after seeing "a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior."

The number of incidents has dramatically declined since then, by about 50% from last January, but the figures indicate that airline crews are still facing the same problem. 

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Under the FAA's zero-tolerance policy, passengers can face fines of up to $37,000 per violation. However, if a passenger commits multiple violations, they can face an even higher penalty.

An American Airlines flight attendant serves drinks to passengers after departing from San Antonio International Airport in Texas.  ( Robert Alexander/Getty Images / Getty Images)

In August 2021, as cases continued to mount, officials from the FAA stepped up efforts by meeting with the Justice Department to "develop an efficient method for referring the most serious unruly-passenger cases for potential criminal prosecution," the agencies said in a joint statement.  

While the FAA can propose fines against unruly passengers, the agency can't prosecute criminal cases. So, if the evidence supports a criminal review, the FAA will then refer cases to the FBI. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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