My Sunday column about the big fines slapped on unruly airline passengers originated with a Freedom of Information Act request I made on Aug. 26 to the Federal Aviation Administration. Less than a month later, I got a list in the mail of 258 fines, warning letters and other enforcement actions against individuals. To get the details on the top 20 fines, I had to submit six more FOIA requests, because the regional FAA offices maintain the enforcement files. The records trickled in over the next three months, with the final ones arriving in late December.
Two of the top penalties went to passengers on flights that originated at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. On an American Eagle flight to LaGuardia on Nov. 24, 2011, Michael Malley reportedly grabbed the neck of a flight crew member "in a choking manner" and had to be restrained on the floor of the plane for the rest of the flight. He was fined $25,000. Quenton Brown was flying to St. Louis on Southwest on Dec. 6, 2010 when he got into a dispute with a flight attendant over a bag of peanuts. That escalated into a confrontation that, depending on who you believed, may have involved profanity and a defiant comment from Brown. It resulted in an $11,000 fine.
You can read about both the cases below: