The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is continuing its crackdown on misbehaving passengers.

by Daniel McCarthy / 

(Fortunately, Adventures For Solo Travelers are comprised of good travelers and this has never been a problem in our 30+ years).

After instituting a zero-tolerance policy toward unruly passengers last summer, a policy that resulted in over $1 million in fines across almost 4,000 incidents, the FAA this week announced that it was proposing even more fines, this time for “unruly behavior involving alcohol.”

The FAA is proposing $161,823 in civil penalties against eight airline passengers for incidents specifically involving alcohol.

The incidents include an April Southwest flight from San Jose to San Diego when a passenger, who brought their own alcohol on their flight, sexually assaulted a flight attendant, and then smoke marijuana in the cabin’s lavatory. The FAA has proposed a $40,823 fine against that passenger.

The report also includes a March Delta Air Lines flight from Fort Myers to Detroit where a passenger who appeared intoxicated and admitted to drinking before the flight, took off his facemask, swore at passengers and accused them of stealing his property, and then threatened a crewmember, causing the flight to divert to Atlanta. The FAA proposed a $24,000 fine against him.

Another example is a March incident that occurred on an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Burbank when a passenger who refused to put on a facemask demanded a refund on the flight because he was skipped for food and drink service when he was sleeping. He then became combative with flight attendants when they asked to him again wear his facemask after he finished a drink they had delivered.

After he was served another drink, he threw it to the floor and stomped on it. The FAA has proposed a $34,250 fine against him.

According to the FAA, those three incidents are just some of the nearly 300 passenger disturbances due to alcohol and intoxication since Jan. 1, 2021. In order to combat the trend, the FAA has asked airports to prevent passengers from bringing “to-go” cups of alcohol aboard their airplane and only allow the cabin crew to serve them inflight.

The report is the continuation of a troubling trend for flight crews who have been tasked with enforcing a lot of the new COVID-19 measures, like face mask requirements, since the pandemic began. While a typical year sees unruly incidents top out somewhere around 150, COVID-19 has caused chaos in the skies and has left flight attendants to endure more than ever, with close to 4,000 reports in 2021.

Most famously this year, there was an incident of an unruly passenger on a Frontier flight from Philadelphia to Miami earlier this month when attendants had to duct-tape a passenger to a seat because of his behavior that went viral.

The FAA has taken extraordinary steps to try and get passengers to comply with the new COVID-19 rules, including a marketing campaign that asked passengers to treat airplanes like a trip to grandma’s house.

Adventures For Solo Travelers tries to make traveling easier for everyone in your groups.  Still, traveling may seem complicated, especially if your trip includes international travel. Each country sets its testing protocols and restrictions, with some cities and states offering more travel rules than others. We try to answer these  questions in our trip tips to help our solo travelers.

Although we are more than a year and a half into the pandemic, the COVID-19 delta variant made it more challenging to move forward as the world reopened after a long shutdown. It’s possible to plan a trip now and large numbers of Americans are traveling domestically and abroad, but it’s crucial to be aware of the rules and regulations imposed at your destination.

Travel insurance is an essential financial safeguard that may also be required, depending on where you want to go. Not all travel plans cover COVID-related medical expenses and cancellations, however.   Buy Travel Insurance

Know why you’re buying this insurance. Be sure you phone the travel insurance company asking them specifically if they will cover exactly what you’re looking for. If not, find a different company.

Some Countries Require Visitors To Carry Travel Insurance Coverage

As more Americans resume international travel, they must deal with the more than two dozen countries (at the time of this article posting) that require medical and travel coverage for COVID-related illness and incidents. Getting essential medical care while traveling abroad can be prohibitively expensive, and smaller countries with less-robust healthcare systems must protect themselves. U.S. health insurance plans don’t usually provide coverage for medical care in another country.

In some countries, visitors must provide proof that they have travel insurance that covers the costs of their medical care in case they contract COVID while abroad. Some countries also require coverage for expenses related to mandatory quarantining if visitors test positive for COVID.

Many countries also require proof of a recent negative COVID test before they’ll allow visitors to enter. Due to the varying requirements, it’s essential to learn about the latest rules for entering another country before leaving for your trip.

Benét J. Wilson – Nov 2, 2021
It’s not an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated airport finances, which (in turn) has severely affected the passenger experience.  But the current state of airports can’t be blamed on the pandemic alone. “Airport infrastructure suffered from chronic underfunding even before this steep decline in air travelers,” according to a report (warning: PDF link) issued in March 2021 by the Airports Council International-North America, which represents airports in the U.S. and Canada.

This underfunding has led to airports prioritizing smaller, more immediate projects — like the maintenance of aging systems and infrastructure — over making investments in larger, higher-impact projects that would modernize and increase airport capacity. It has also led to a $115 billion backlog of planned infrastructure projects and tens of billions of dollars more in delayed or canceled projects, according to the report.

According to Kevin Burke, president and CEO of ACI-NA, the industry wouldn’t have survived without the $20 billion included for airports in the CARES Act, passed in March 2020. Airports must make bond payments every year to cover construction and improvement costs, something that the decrease in air traffic made tougher to do, he said.  “Without a flow of traffic — we were down to 89,000 people passing through TSA checkpoints in April 2020 — we realized that we needed help from the federal government,” Burke said. “We ended up doing a full-out lobbying campaign with Congress to talk about how important airports were for the recovery of the economy.”

The $20 billion kept the airports open, kept employees working and ensured that bills were paid, said Burke. “The $20 billion was a godsend to us, but we’re still struggling. We’re not anywhere close to where we were before in 2019 in terms of our passenger numbers, but it is getting better,” he said.

Victoria M. Walker Nov 2, 2021

Nobody likes a delayed flight.  But with several airlines, such as American and Southwest, experiencing operational meltdowns lately, it’s not inconceivable that you’ll experience a flight delay if you’re traveling right now. On Oct. 31, more than 9,700 flights within, into or out of the United States were delayed, according to data from the flight-tracking website FlightAware.

However, before you head off to the airport lounge to drink away your sorrows, there are some things you need to know about flight delays. And, in some instances, you may even be entitled to financial compensation for your inconvenience.

Here’s what you should do if you find out your flight’s been delayed.

Check-in with the gate agent

Don’t skip off to the airport lounge immediately after finding out about a flight delay.

I’ve, admittedly, been guilty of this, and it’s almost caused me to miss a twice-delayed flight. After getting delayed during a flight a few years back, I figured I had enough time to grab some food, drink and catch a cat nap at the lounge. I hadn’t realized that the flight had somehow been “un-delayed” until I’d happened to wake up a short time later. With just minutes to spare before the boarding doors closed, I arrived to catch my connecting flight — harried and out of breath.

I would have avoided this entirely had I checked with the gate agent to find out the new time or asked an employee at the lounge. They typically know these things.

Another thing: Don’t rely solely on the airport departure and arrival board as they are sometimes not updated. They’re usually accurate, but you’re likely to have the most up-to-date flight departure information if you’ve downloaded your airline’s app to your phone.

On a recent flight between my hometown airport Norfolk (ORF) and New York (LGA), I found out my outbound flight had been delayed minutes before the gate agent announced it over the intercom. Having multiple sources of information, especially as more flights experience operational delays these days, is better than relying on just one source.

Know your credit card’s delay and cancellation policy

We talk a lot about how to make your travel rewards credit cards work for you here at TPG. But that isn’t only about earning elite status with airlines or finding the best lounge to plane-spot. Sometimes, your credit card can come in handy when a trip doesn’t go quite as planned.

One underrated benefit that can come to the rescue when things go wrong: trip delay coverage, as my colleague, TPG senior editor Nick Ewen wrote earlier this summer. A delay isn’t just frustrating: It can cause you to miss a crucial flight segment and potentially leave you stranded at an airport.

Trip delay protection ensures that you won’t be responsible for additional (reasonable) expenses that occur due to a lengthy trip delay. However, some credit cards can save you money and hassle if you’re delayed due to weather, operational problems, strikes or other unplanned events. You will likely need to pay for the expenses upfront, but you may be eligible for reimbursement afterward.

Credit cards with trip delay protection include:

The Chase Sapphire Reserve covers delays from 6 hours or overnight, with a maximum coverage amount of $500. ($550 annual fee)
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card covers delays from 12 hours or overnight, with a maximum coverage amount of $500. ($95 annual fee)
The Platinum Card® from American Express covers delays from 6 hours, with a maximum coverage of $500 per covered trip. ($695 annual fee — see rates & fees)
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card covers delays from 6 hours, with a maximum coverage of $500 per covered trip. ($550 annual fee — see rates & fees)
You may be eligible for a refund

Know your rights if there’s a delay or cancellation.

If you decide not to fly your originally scheduled flight due to significant delays and cancellations, you should get your money or points back. Airlines will generally try and push a voucher on you, but you don’t have to settle for it and are entitled to cash.

You may have a cancel and refund option available to you online or in the airline’s app. But as I’ve found in the past, the airlines often won’t make it simple to ask for a refund, so you may end up having to call the customer service line. Just remember, even if the airline offers you a voucher or even miles, you’re typically entitled to a cash refund.

You have even more options if your travel falls under the EU261 regulation — which establishes rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding, cancellation or long flight delays.  EU261 provides you some travel protections if your flight is delayed at departure, depending on how long your delay was. If you arrived at your final destination with a delay of more than three hours, you are entitled to compensation (unless the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances, like terrorism.)