Recently a woman flying from Baltimore to Salt Lake City, Utah had a few too many drinks before boarding a plane. The woman allegedly asked the man seated next to her for sex. The woman became belligerent and abusive when the man turned her down. The plane made an emergency landing at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International airport where she was turned over to airport police. A passenger with a cell phone captured the scene on video. You can read about the incident and watch the video by clicking here.
With Spring break around the corner and people looking to escape the winter, it is important for airline passengers to remember that being disruptive on a plane may result in federal charges. Federal law makes it illegal to interfere with the flight crew. Assaulting a crew member is governed by 49 U.S.C. § 46504.
Actions that do not amount to a physical assault may still result in significant civil penalties. Such actions may be offensive or disruptive behavior, blocking a flight attendant from walking down the aisle, failing to return to your seat, or a variety of matters. Disruptive behavior is covered under 14 C.F.R. §§ 91.11, 121.580, 135.120.
The safest way to avoid criminal charges while on a plane is to obey the crew member’s instructions. Do not raise your voice at a crew member, or make threats. Ask to speak to the flight attendant in charge if you believe that the crew member you are dealing with is in the wrong. Finally, unless rendering aid, never touch a crew member. If you believe that you were treated unfairly, or the crew was out of line, wait until the end of the flight and you may then file a complaint against the crew member with the airline, or at this site with the Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division.
Here are a few of penalties disruptive passengers expose themselves to:
Assault. Assaulting a crew member is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment, and a fine of up to $250,000. If a dangerous weapon is used, the defendant can be imprisoned for life. 18 U.S.C. § 3571, 49 U.S.C. § 46504.
Interference. The maximum civil penalty for interfering with a crew member is a fine of up to $25,000. 49 U.S.C. § 46318.