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'Unruly' airline passengers who refused masks could be fined as much as $15,500, FAA says

The fines were proposed amid alcohol bans aimed at calming in-flight tensions and thousands of reports of out-of-control passengers.

Four airline passengers who refused to wear masks this year could face fines as high as $15,500, part of an effort to crack down on what federal authorities described as "unruly and dangerous behavior" in the skies, officials said Monday.

The Federal Aviation Administration made the announcement amid alcohol bans aimed at calming in-flight tensions and thousands of reports of out-of-control passengers.

As of Monday, the FAA said, it had received 2,800 such reports since Jan. 1. Three-quarters reported people refusing to comply with federal mask rules, it said.

The steepest proposed fine, $15,500, involved a passenger on a Feb. 5 JetBlue flight between Florida and Las Vegas who ignored at least 10 requests from flight attendants to wear a mask over his nose and his mouth. He also drank miniature bottles of alcohol that had not been served during the flight, a violation of FAA rules, the agency said.

The other potential fines, from $10,500 to $7,500, were proposed for a passenger on another JetBlue flight who was alleged to have become "disruptive" after a flight attendant asked her to wear a mask, a passenger on an Alaska flight who was alleged to have smoked an e-cigarette in the restroom and refused to wear a mask in the cabin and a passenger on a Southwest flight who also refused to wear a mask.

All of the incidents occurred in February, a month after the FAA announced stiffer penalties for unruly passengers.

Under the new rules, passengers who assault, threaten or interfere with aircraft crew members could face fines of $35,000 on top of criminal charges.