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Port Authority Considers Fining Disruptive Passengers Over Flight Delays

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Port Authority means business.

The agency said Monday it won't hesitate to go after anyone who causes a take-off delay at any of the Tri-State Area's three major airports.

Executive Director Pat Foye said each delay at LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy International and Newark Liberty airports costs thousands of dollars.

Additionally, disruptions can inconvenience many travelers since  it could take planes 30 to 60 minutes to return to their gates to have passengers and luggage removed. Passengers CBS 2's John Slattery spoke to on Monday said they are tired of being delayed by selfish people.

"They tell them to get off the phone and they have one more thing to say, one more call to make," Larry Chapoy said.

"I see that all the time, when people don't turn off cell phones," James Green added.

Foye said an incident such as that involving Alec Baldwin, in which the actor was booted from a flight in Los Angeles in December after arguing over shutting off his cell phone, could delay an entire airport for a day with cascading delays.

"We can't allow inconsiderate cell phone users on airplanes to delay flights," Foye said. "It's unacceptable. It causes people to miss connections, it costs the airlines money and it adds to the stress on the air traffic's control system up and down the East Coast."

Disruptive passengers could face fines and possibly land in court if they refuse to pay up.

"We don't want to add to the amount of litigation in the courts but where there's egregious behavior, those who are inconsiderate in the use of their cell phones and engaged in illegal activity once the airplane doors have been closed that's an option that we've got and in the right case we'll bring a suit," Foye said.

Some passengers told CBS 2's Slattery they like the "get tough" idea.

"I think it will stop it very quickly," Ed Guydan said.

"It seems reasonable to me," Lynne Kudzy added.

But one airline captain told Slattery the idea seemed excessive. David Stempler of  The Air Travelers Association wondered whether the Port Authority should become a collection agent for the airlines and passengers, saying:

"The proposal by the Port Authority may be outside their domain and jurisdiction since activities involving the operation of aircraft in interstate commerce are the sole purview of the Federal Government," Stempler said.

The Port Authority said it would use the funds collected to reimburse the airline for fuel and other costs, keeping only a small portion that represents its own expenses.

Foye insisted this is not a way for the agency to turn a profit, but rather improve flight experiences and travel time.

"The Port Authority is not looking to make a dime on this, that's not what this is about," Foye said. "This is to send a message that listening to the flight attendants and pilot and co-pilot when they say 'Turn off the phone,' it's important to do that, it's also required by federal law, but beyond that it's impolite, inconsiderate to your seat mate across the aisle who may be trying to make a connection."

Do you think disruptive passengers should pick up the costs of delays? Let us know below...

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