U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has led the rapid prosecution of federal offenses on commercial flights, as officials face a large increase in the number of investigations into passenger behavior.
Airlines and their unions have pressured the US government to push the prosecution more aggressively. Airlines have reported more than 5,000 incidents with rebel passengers this year, with more than 3,600 of those incidents with people refusing to wear face masks.
Garland said in a statement that these passengers do more than harm employees. “They avoid the performance of critical tasks that help ensure safe air travel. Similarly, when passengers commit violent acts against other passengers at the nearby confines of a commercial aircraft, the conduct endangers everyone on board,” he said. to say.
He said the justice department has pledged to aggressively prosecute violent passengers who assault crew members or endanger the safety of other passengers. Federal law prohibits interfering with the flight crew, including assaulting, intimidating, or threatening crew members.
The note also notes that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has reported dozens of incidents to the FBI as part of an “information exchange protocol” between the two agencies. The FAA is investigating some flight disruptions and may issue civil fines to harmful passengers.
The FAA said earlier this month that it had begun 950 investigations into passenger behavior on flights this year. This is the highest total since the agency began monitoring in 1995. In the five years from 2016 to 2020, the agency had an average of 136 investigations per year.
The agency also said it had referred to the FBI 37 cases involving passengers from an undisciplined airline for possible criminal prosecution since the number of flight interruptions began to increase in January.
“The unacceptable disruptive behavior we are seeing is a serious threat to flight safety and we are committed to our partnership with the DOJ to combat it,” said Steve Dickson, FAA administrator.