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Won’t wear a mask on a plane? Get the heck off and pay a big fine

Faced with an alarming number of combative passengers who don’t want to wear masks, the Federal Aviation Administration has extended its zero tolerance policy — and we’re all for it.

In this file photo from March 17, 2021, travelers walk through the Salt Lake City International Airport.
In this file photo from March, travelers walk through the Salt Lake City International Airport. Air travel is expected to rise this summer, and the FAA is right to get tough on travelers who become unruly, usually because of mask requirements, the editorial board writes.
Rick Bowmer/AP file

Millions of Americans — nearly 70% of us, according to one survey — are planning to travel this summer, finally breaking free of a year’s isolation caused by the pandemic.

With that in mind, it’s worth noting that air travel still carries restrictions. Federal law requires that we all wear masks, at the airport and on planes.

We mention this because some folks just don’t seem to get it, at least to judge by the alarming number of people who have become unruly on flights in the last few months because, darn it, nobody’s gonna tell them what to do!

Since February, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, airlines have filed more than 1,300 reports of unruly passengers, a “disturbing increase” from previous years, an FAA spokesperson told us by email. Most of the reports involved passengers who became combative and threatening because they were asked to follow the rules on wearing a mask.

That kind of stupidity jeopardizes the safety of everyone on board, so we’re totally onboard with the zero-tolerance stance of FAA administrator Steve Dickson. Levy stiff fines. Escort offenders off planes.

Consider the case, back in January, of a passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Sacramento. He refused directions from two flight attendants to put on a mask. He began cursing. Then he hit one of the attendants with his bags when he was told to leave the plane.

The FAA slapped the man with a fine of $16,500, as part of stepped-up enforcement actions against unruly passengers, as the New York Times reported.

We’re all for it.

Previously, the FAA took a more measured approach to combative passengers like this guy, leaning more toward issuing lots of warnings before handing out fines.

So far, the FAA has identified potential violations in about 260 of those 1,300 reports from the airlines. Hundreds of cases remain under investigation and could well result in more fines, up to $35,000 each.

The message is clear: Stubbornness has a price.

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