WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Merrick Garland directed U.S. attorneys throughout the nation to swiftly prioritize prosecution of federal crimes that occur on business flights as federal officers face a historic variety of investigations into passenger habits.
Garland’s memo, issued Wednesday, emphasizes that the Justice Department is dedicated to aggressively prosecuting violent passengers who assault crew members or endanger the protection of different passengers. Federal regulation prohibits interfering with a flight crew, together with assaulting, intimidating or threatening crew members.
In a press release, Garland stated such passengers do greater than hurt staff. “They prevent the performance of critical duties that help ensure safe air travel. Similarly, when passengers commit violent acts against other passengers in the close confines of a commercial aircraft, the conduct endangers everyone aboard,” he stated.
The memo additionally notes that dozens of incidents have been reported to the FBI by the Federal Aviation Administration — it investigates some flight disturbances and may difficulty civil fines to disruptive passengers — as a part of an “information-sharing protocol” between the 2 companies.
The FAA stated earlier this month that it had launched 950 investigations into passenger habits on flights this yr. That is the best complete because the company began retaining monitor in 1995. In the 5 years from 2016 by way of 2020, the company averaged 136 investigations a yr.
The company additionally stated that it had referred 37 instances involving unruly airline passengers to the FBI for doable prison prosecution because the variety of disruptions on flights started to spike in January.
“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,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson stated.
Airlines and their unions have pressed the federal authorities to push extra aggressively for prison prosecution. Airlines have reported greater than 5,000 incidents involving unruly passengers this yr, with greater than 3,600 of these involving individuals who refused to put on face masks as required by federal regulation.
“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 stated within the assertion.
The worldwide president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, Sara Nelson, additionally applauded Garland’s announcement.
“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,” Nelson stated in a press release. “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.”