Plenty of first-class losers are making the friendly skies feel more like Fight Club than an Admirals Club — and they’re paying some jumbo fines.
In the last five years, the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a whopping $324,589 in fines to 76 drunk and belligerent passengers, the Daily News learned from data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Passengers were hit with fines for everything from punching flight attendants and starting midair melees, to peeing in sinks and pointing lasers at pilots.
Booze was frequently the cause of the boorish behavior.
A double vodka-cranberry drink allegedly set off passenger Jessica Lee Perkins-Larkin.
She refused to give up that drink before her US Airways flight took off from Phoenix on Aug. 17, 2013, snatching it back from a flight attendant.
Later, she began painting her fingernails, and refused to stop after other passengers complained of the odor of the polish.
Perkins-Larkin became irate as the crew tried to calm her down and refused to serve her more drinks. After a flight attendant began preparing a drink for another passenger, she “began violently kicking the bulkhead wall” and tossing safety cards and magazines from the backseat pocket, according to the federal report.
Cops were called to meet her at the airport in Houston and she was fined $7,700 by the FAA, records show.
Then there’s an American Airlines passenger named Jeffrey Currie, who was fined $4,400 in 2016 for allegedly backing a flight attendant up against a cabin door during a New York to London flight and calling her a “f—ing idiot” because she refused to serve his traveling companion more alcohol.
“Fill her up with booze so she’ll shut up. She always gets like this,” he yelled during the Sept. 7, 2014, flight, according to the FAA documents. “If you don’t fill her up with booze, she’ll get way worse.”
Yet another passenger became violent when flight attendants cut him off along with a friend during a Southwest Airlines flight to Florida on June 6, 2013.
“Jack. You get us two Jack Daniel’s and Coke,” Frank Harmon reportedly said as he squeezed and choked a flight attendant.
The plane was diverted to Jacksonville and he paid a $2,000 FAA fine.
The top tab was issued to a Brooklyn man who groped a flight attendant.
Shlomo Singer was hit with an $18,000 fine for his attack aboard a Go-Jet Airlines Flight from Montreal to LaGuardia on March 4, 2014. He first allegedly grabbed the calf of a woman flight crew member as she was securing an overhead bin.
After the flight took off, he grabbed the woman’s hand and also touched her breast, the FAA report says. Singer also “reached around (his) seat with an open hand in attempt to grab her crotch,” the civil penalty agreement says.
It’s not just airline staff who were attacked by violent travelers.
Mary Cannady allegedly hit another female passenger in the face with pepper spray on a JetBlue Airways flight after it landed in John F. Kennedy International Airport on Aug. 26, 2015.
Cannady was furious after the other passenger socked her in the face as she tried to climb over her towards the aisle, authorities said.
The pepper spray fumes “impacted many passengers on the aircraft” and several needed emergency medical services because they were having trouble breathing, the FAA report says.
The passengers sickened included a mother and her infant, as well as airline crew members.
Cannady agreed to pay a $3,000 fine and was issued a desk appearance ticket by the NYPD.
An American Airlines passenger identified as Tyler Marsh was fined $5,000 for downing three or four alcoholic beverages during a Dallas to Las Vegas flight on June 6, 2015, and turning belligerent.
He allegedly began hitting the head of the passenger seated in front of him before reaching between the seats and grabbing the man’s chest and arm, the FAA said in a 2016 letter.
Marsh was ultimately put in flex cuffs as he called one of the flight attendants a “dumb blonde” and an expletive, the FAA claims.
Many of the unruly passengers who lawyered up were able to negotiate lower penalties, records show.
That includes Jeffrey Fernstorm, who the FAA initially hit with an $11,000 fine for allegedly refusing to move his leg out of the aisle.
The feds claimed Fernstorm grabbed the arm of a flight attendant and “verbally assaulted her using vulgar language” when she accidentally stepped on his leg twice because he refused to budge.
Fernstorm vehemently denied the allegations and argued the crew member never warned him to keep his legs out of the aisle. His lawyer was able to negotiate the fine down to $500 for the incident on the American Airlines flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Chicago.
“My husband was asleep,” his wife, Julie Dunlap, told The News. “The stewardess ran over his foot with a cart the first time and then literally stepped on my husband’s foot. She purposely stepped on his foot.”
In another case, Barry Reynolds repeatedly put his arm around a young boy sitting next to him and grabbed him around the head before takeoff, the FAA claims.
The boy’s grandfather tried to get Reynolds to stop on the United Airlines flight scheduled to fly from Chicago to Raleigh, N.C., Sept. 29, 2014.
The plane was forced to turn around, and Reynolds was booted. The FAA wanted to fine him $4,400, but he negotiated it down to $2,750, records show.
Critics of the FAA say the agency needs to do more to protect flight crews and other passengers from unhinged or boozed-up flyers.
The agency can fine people up to $25,000 but almost never takes that step. In October, President Trump signed a five-year FAA reauthorization bill — a broad measure that among other things increases the penalty for “crew interference” to $35,000.
As for overall fines issues, the $324,589 total was approximately $90,000 less than the previous five years, FAA records show.
One umbrella group representing flight attendants says passengers have become more careful due to several high-profile incidents caught on cell phone video.
“If you behave badly in the air it’s going to have consequences for you on the ground,” said Taylor Garland, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines.
She pointed out some passengers have recently been ordered to pay steeper fines to the airlines to cover their cost for turning planes around.
That includes James August, whose bad behavior forced a nonstop flight to New York to go back to Honolulu. A federal judge ordered August to pay Hawaiian Airlines $97,817 in August 2017.
In that case, August was boozing before and during the flight. And when he hit a flight attendant on the shoulder with the back of his hand, other passengers forced him down.
All told, the number of flight crew complaints sent to the FAA has also gone down over the past five years.
There were 754 reported cases from 2009 to 2013, records show. By comparison, there’ve been only 519 such cases filed from 2014 to 2018 so far, FAA data reveals.
The overwhelming majority of complaints don’t result in passenger fines, records show.
Some of the cases take years before they are finally adjudicated.
SOURCE: Aviation Pros