On Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland directed federal prosecutors to prioritize the prosecution of airline passengers who commit assaults and other crimes aboard aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced on November 4 that it had referred more than three dozen unruly passengers to the FBI for a possible criminal prosecution, citing a sharp increase in onboard incidents this year.

The Department of Justice is committed to using its resources to do its part to prevent violence, intimidation, threats of violence and other criminal behavior that endangers the safety of passengers, flight crews and flight attendants on commercial aircraft,” Garland said.

This year, American Airlines have reported a record number of disruptive and sometimes violent incidents, and the FAA has pledged a “zero-tolerance” policy.

There have been 5,338 reports of unruly passenger incidents through November 23, with 3,856 of them related to pandemic face-covering regulations. The FAA proposed $161,823 in fines against eight airline passengers on Monday for alleged drunken behavior.

According to an FAA spokesman, the agency has started 227 enforcement cases and referred 37 to the FBI for review. The FAA and the Justice Department announced an information-sharing protocol that allows the FAA to refer unruly passenger cases to the FBI for review.

On Oct. 8, President Joe Biden stated that he had directed the Justice Department to “deal” with the increasing number of violent incidents on planes. In June, a group representing major U.S. airlines, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc, and United Airlines, as well as aviation unions, asked the Justice Department, as did some Democrats in Congress, to prosecute violent air passengers.

A 20-year-old California man has been charged by US prosecutors in Colorado with assaulting a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight bound for Santa Ana, California, on October 27. The plane was forced to land. After boarding a Southwest Airlines Co flight in Dallas earlier this month, a 32-year-old passenger was arrested and charged with assaulting a Southwest Airlines Co operations agent.

Source: Reuters

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