Unruly American Airlines Passenger Sued by FAA for Unpaid $81,950 Fine

An American Airlines passenger who exhibited violent behavior mid-flight and attempted to open the flight door is now facing a lawsuit from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for failing to pay a substantial fine. According to Mirror

Heather Wells, 34, has been sued by the FAA for not paying an $81,950 (£62,380) fine imposed on her for her disruptive actions in July 2021. She was penalized for her erratic behavior on the flight, which included trying to access the flight cabin, interfering with the flight crew, and posing a significant threat to the safety of the aircraft and its passengers.

Wells was traveling in business class on American Airlines Flight 1774 from Dallas, Texas, to Charlotte, North Carolina, on July 6-7, 2021. The incident escalated within an hour of the flight’s departure after she was served Jack Daniels neat during the food and beverage service. told by TNY Post

According to the lawsuit documents, Wells became increasingly agitated, insisting she “wanted out” of the plane. She left her seat, crawled on her knees towards the back door, and spoke incoherently to other passengers. When a flight attendant tried to restrain her, Wells threatened to “hurt” them and pushed them aside, attempting to grab the main door handle while yelling and screaming profanities.

Ultimately, Wells had to be restrained by two flight attendants and a passenger using duct tape and flex cuffs after she landed multiple punches on one of the crew members’ heads. Even after being seated, she continued to kick, spit, and attempt to bite and head-butt flight attendants and passengers. This necessitated further restraint with tape, including her mouth, but she continued screaming and cursing throughout the flight. as reported by Daily Mail

The pilot radioed ahead for law enforcement to be on standby upon the plane’s arrival in Charlotte. While the flight was taxiing, Wells broke free from the duct tape and resumed kicking, but she was restrained again until law enforcement boarded the plane. Authorities had other passengers deboard the flight before taking Wells into custody and transporting her to a nearby hospital. A video of Wells duct-taped to her seat went viral on TikTok.

“Defendant continued to violently kick and broke the seat in front of her,” the suit said. “Ultimately, Defendant had to be sedated to be removed from the aircraft by law enforcement and medical responders.”

This week, the FAA reported a continued rise in unruly passenger cases in 2024, with civil penalties of up to $37,000 (£29,000) per violation. “There have been 915 cases of unruly passengers from January 1, 2024, to June 9, 2024, including 106 cases of passenger disturbances due to intoxication,” the FAA stated.

“Travelers will pay for misbehaving. The FAA implemented a Zero-Tolerance Policy on January 13, 2021, after seeing a disturbing increase in cases, issuing fines instead of warning letters or counseling.”