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Saying that a zero-tolerance policy by airlines and monetary fines by the Federal Aviation Administration is not enough, two U.S. Senators have sent letters to the FAA and Department of Justice asking for strong penalties against passengers who commit criminal acts on flights.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Sen. Richard Durbin, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent separate letters to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson regarding increased incidents involving dangerous airline passengers. The senators called on the agencies to coordinate efforts to ensure that those airline passengers who commit criminal acts are prosecuted.
"Civil penalties alone are failing to deter criminal activity by airline passengers," Sens. Cantwell and Durbin wrote to Dickson. "Robust and public efforts to prosecute those who endanger passengers and crewmembers are necessary to deter interference with safe air travel. The FAA plays a critical role in investigating and referring criminal incidents to federal law enforcement authorities."
The amount of unruly passengers this year has skyrocketed, with many incidents turning physical and most of them related to passengers who refused to follow the federal mask mandate.
As of September 14, 2021, there have been 4,284 reports of unruly passenger incidents this year-3,123 of which were mask-related.
Additionally, the FAA has initiated 755 investigations into unruly passengers, which is more than double the investigations for 2019 and 2020 combined. The FAA has initiated enforcement actions in 154 cases, levying more than $1 million in fines.
According to a recent survey of flight attendants, more than 85 percent of respondents said they had dealt with unruly passengers in the first half of 2021.
"As you know, DOJ has ample authority to prosecute those who commit crimes while onboard an aircraft," the senators wrote to Garland. "It is critical that DOJ direct federal law enforcement agents and prosecutors to use these authorities to fully investigate reported incidents on aircraft, and, when supported by the evidence, prosecute those who are criminally responsible."
Cantwell and Durbin asked for a briefing from DOJ and FAA to inform Congressional oversight of the issue no later than October 11, 2021.
Rich Thomaselli has written for TravelPulse since 2014 and has been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. His work has...
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