FAA Administrator Exhorts Holiday Travelers: ‘Be Nice To Your Flight Crew’


With close to 50,000 flights scheduled, today (Wednesday, Nov. 22) is the busiest day of the year for airline travel. During a press briefing to address the travel tsunami, newly appointed FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker urged passengers to “Be nice to your flight crew. They’re there for your safety.”

Whitaker added that the FAA has opened its Holiday Airspace Release program to reduce volume, particularly along East Coast routes. The agency has cleared 169 new, faster routes along the eastern corridors to shorten flight times. He also pointed out that the FAA has coordinated with “the commercial space industry” to ensure scheduled space launches don’t constrict commercial airline traffic.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttegieg cited instability in airline-travel performance following the COVID pandemic and said “airline issues” were the main source of the delays, second to weather-related disruptions. He said air traffic controller issues made up less than 10 percent of delay minutes, nevertheless acknowledging the need for accelerated hiring and training in that sector.

Still, the Transportation Secretary said, 2023 has shown the lowest cancellation rate in the last half decade—1.3 percent—lower than pre-pandemic rates. He also pointed out that DOT pressure on airlines has increased support for stranded passengers in the form of refunds.

Getting back to Administrator Whitaker’s core message, he said unruly passenger reports have “dropped substantially” since the 500 percent spike experienced from 2020 to 2021, but the chaos is still well above pre-pandemic standards. He reminded travelers that bad actors on airplanes are subject to fines of up to $37,000 per violation as well as legal action by local law enforcement and the FBI.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.


  1. Disruptive passengers should not only be fined, but a one year ban on flying on any aircraft would also be in order! Second offense, lifetime ban.

  2. All-righty, boys and girls … strap-in tight, because with the decline in the number of full-performance level (“FPL”) controllers, there’s no way on God’s green earth that things will get better anytime soon.