Justice Department to crack down on disruptive airline passengers

Washington DC – As people across the country fly home for Thanksgiving, the Justice Department (DOJ) announced it is taking new measures to ensure safe skies for all.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has directed the Justice Department to prioritize prosecution of criminal conduct on commercial flights (stock image).
Attorney General Merrick Garland has directed the Justice Department to prioritize prosecution of criminal conduct on commercial flights (stock image).  © Collage: 123RF/farang & IMAGO / NurPhoto

Attorney General Merrick Garland is directing the DOJ to prioritize prosecution of federal crimes on flights, the Associated Press reported.

"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 in a statement.

There have been 950 investigations launched into passenger behavior on flights so far this year. That makes 2021 the record setter since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) started counting in 1995.

Of the incidents this year, 37 have been referred to the FBI for possible criminal prosecution.

"The unacceptable disruptive behavior that we’re seeing is a serious safety threat to flights, and we’re committed to our partnership with the DOJ to combat it," said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.

Airlines and unions have called on the US government to increase protections for their workers. They have reported more than 5,000 incidents this year, over 3,600 of which are said to involve passengers who refused to wear face masks.

"Consequences need to be swift and clear to keep travel safe and protect the people on the frontlines who have worked through all the stresses of this pandemic," said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO.

"We want to take people to New Orleans, Seattle, Fort Lauderdale, or to see Grandma. We do not want to take them to jail. But, the DOJ can now make it clear that’s where you’re going if you refuse to cooperate and act out violently on a plane."

Cover photo: Collage: 123RF/farang & IMAGO / NurPhoto

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