Airline passengers who misbehave or become violent will be prosecuted quickly by the federal government.
As officials report a record number of complaints and investigations into passenger behavior, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo to U.S. attorneys nationwide on Wednesday directing them to prioritize the prosecution of federal offenses committed on commercial flights.
According to the Associated Press, the Justice Department is committed to vigorously pursuing passengers who abuse crew members or other passengers, or otherwise risk the flight’s safety.
Passengers are prohibited from interfering with flight crew members, including attacking, threatening, or intimidating crew members, under federal law.
The memo comes as the Federal Aviation Administration said earlier this month that 950 passenger conduct investigations were filed in 2021, the highest number since they began tracking in 1995, with 37 cases submitted to the FBI for possible criminal prosecution. From 2016 to 2020, the agency conducted an average of 136 investigations every year.
“The intolerable disruptive behavior we’re seeing poses a severe safety danger to flights, and we’re determined to working with the Department of Justice to address it,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said.
The 950 incidents documented by the FAA are just a fraction of the over 5,000 incidents of rowdy passengers reported by airlines this year, with more than 3,600 of them involving passengers who refused to follow federal laws and wear face masks.
The directive also comes as the holiday travel season approaches its peak, with over 2.2 million people passing through airport security checkpoints last Friday, and the American Automobile Association predicting that over 48 million people will travel more than 50 miles for Thanksgiving celebrations.
The Association of Flight Attendants is also advocating for a new no-fly list for persons who assault airline crew members or other passengers, so that someone who is barred from flying on one airline may be barred from flying on others as well.
See the list below for more Associated Press reporting.
Garland said in a statement that such passengers do more than endanger personnel. “They obstruct the execution of key tasks that contribute to the safety of air travel. Similarly, when passengers commit aggressive acts against other passengers in the confined space of a commercial airplane, everyone on board is put in danger “he stated
The Federal Aviation Administration, which investigates some flight disturbances and can issue civil fines, has reported scores of incidents to the FBI, according to the document. This is a condensed version of the information.