The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has referred 37 passengers to the Justice Department.
“We are referring the most egregious cases to the FBI for federal criminal prosecution consideration,” the FAA said in a social media post on November 4, 2021.
Cases of unruly passengers have spiked this year, with 5,033 unruly passenger reports up until November 2, 2021. Of those 3,642 are related to mask-wearing. The FAA has started 950 investigations and 227 enforcement cases.
“Unruly behavior is serious and has real consequences,” FAA administrator Steve Dickson said on Twitter.
Warning for unruly airline passengers! We are referring the most egregious cases to the @FBI for federal criminal prosecution consideration. This is a priority for both agencies. Learn more at https://t.co/ISiblzAzGi. @TheJusticeDept #FlySmart pic.twitter.com/hVroWfXEMa— The FAA (@FAANews) November 4, 2021
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International (AFA) applauded the referrals and called on the Justice Department to take swift action.
“Expeditiously referring the most violent, physical assaults against crewmembers and passengers to the Department of Justice for public prosecution is the most effective way to deter bad actors and put a stop to the spike in disruptive passengers,” AFA President Sara Nelson said in a statement.
The FAA has the ability to issue civil fines of up to $37,000 per violation for unruly passengers. A single incident can result in multiple violations. However, it cannot prosecute criminal cases. For that it needs to refer cases to the Justice Department.
The flight attendant spent a night in hospital following the assault and the chief executive of American Airlines (A1G) (AAL), Doug Parker, described the incident as “one of the worst displays of unruly behavior we have ever seen.”
The AFA union repeated its call on November 4, 2021 for a central list of passengers who have been banned from flying over unruly behavior to be shared among airlines.
“If a passenger physically assaults crewmembers or other passengers on one airline, they pose a risk to passengers and crew at every airline. They should be banned from flying on all airlines. Period,” Nelson stated.