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FAA makes 'zero tolerance' policy on unruly passengers a permanent fixture on commercial flights

The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that it is taking steps to make permanent its "zero tolerance" policy for bad behavior on U.S. commercial aircraft. "Behaving dangerously on a plane will cost you; that's a promise," acting FAA administrator Billy Nolen said in a statement. The FAA issued its policy in 2021, in response to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, but many of the passengers fined or referred to the Justice Department for prosecution were sanctioned for attacking flight crew and fellow fliers over COVID-19 masking requirement. 

The FAA launched investigations of 1,100 investigations of unruly behavior in 2021, out of nearly 6,000 reports of unruly passengers, many tied to aggressive flouting of the mask mandate. A federal judge in Florida on Monday struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's masking requirement on public transportation, and the Justice Department announced Wednesday that it is appealing that decision because the CDC determined that the policy is still necessary for public health. 

"CDC will continue to monitor public health conditions to determine whether such an order remains necessary. CDC believes this is a lawful order, well within CDC's legal authority to protect public health," the agency said.