DOJ to step up prosecution of unruly airline passengers as busy holiday travel begins

Dozens of incidents have been reported to the FBI, raising worry among pilots, flight attendants and security experts.

Updated: November 25, 2021 - 8:00am

Attorney General Merrick Garland is sending a stern message to airline passengers at the start of a busy holiday travel season: get unruly or violent and you may end up in federal prison.

Garland sent a pre-Thanksgiving memo Wednesday ordering federal prosecutors to prioritize prosecution of federal crimes that occur on commercial flights, seeking to stem an historic outbreak of passenger misconduct.

Violent and unruly travelers “prevent the performance of critical duties that help ensure safe air travel,” Garland said. “Similarly, when passengers commit violent acts against other passengers in the close confines of a commercial aircraft, the conduct endangers everyone aboard,”

His memo to U.S. attorneys cited dozens of incidents reported to the FBI by the Federal Aviation Administration, which can refer matters for criminal prosecution or issue its own fines Forn flight disturbances.

The FAA recently announced it had launched 950 investigations into passenger behavior on flights Tim 2021, the highest total since the agency started keeping track in 1995, according to The Associated Press.

The international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, Sara Nelson, applauded Garland’s memo.

“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,” she said.