Airlines for America, Air Line Pilots Association, Allied Pilots Association, Association of Flight Attendants, Association of Professional Flight Attendants, Coalition of Airline Pilots Association, National Air Carrier Association, Regional Airline Association, Southwest Airlines Pilots Association and Transport Workers Union of America have worked together to implore the Department of Justice to continue to crack down on unruly passengers. The groups sent a letter to Merrick B. Garland, the U. S. Attorney General expressing their “heightened concern regarding the substantial increase in and growing escalation of passengers’ unruly and disruptive behavior on board aircraft, particularly toward crewmembers.”
The groups say these incidents pose a safety and security threat to passengers and employees. They requested that the Department of Justice commit to the full and public prosecution of onboard acts of violence.
The groups commended the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for adopting a stricter legal enforcement policy against unruly airline passengers through Administrator Steve Dickson’s Special Emphasis Enforcement Program stating that they appreciated the FAA’s ongoing efforts to investigate incidents, levy civil penalties for passengers’ behavior that interferes with crewmembers and publicize its enforcement actions.
However, the groups did ask that more is done to deter egregious behavior, which is in violation of federal law and crewmember instruction, saying that specifically “the federal government should send a strong and consistent message through criminal enforcement that compliance with federal law and upholding aviation safety are of paramount importance.
Airlines for America (A4A) explained to the FAA Administrator under separate cover that they “believe that the United States Government is well equipped to prosecute unruly and disruptive onboard behavior. Section 46504 of Title 49 of the U.S. Code (49 U.S.C. § 46504) prohibits assault or intimidation of a flight crewmember or flight attendant that interferes with the performance of a crewmember’s duties or lessens the ability of the crewmember to perform those duties. The prescribed penalty ranges from a fine to imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both. Successful and public criminal prosecutions under Section 46504, including potential imprisonment, will fulfill Congress’s intent to make safety the ‘highest priority in air commerce’ and ‘provid[e] stiff penalties for various crimes in air commerce…’ the A4A letter said.
The groups said by making these prosecutions public, a spotlight will be put on the serious consequences when breaking the law and will act as an effective deterrent against future onboard disruptions.
“Lastly, we submit that the enforcement of this critical safety statute should be consistent and vigorous across all jurisdictions within the United States,” A4A’s letter said. “Aviation safety is a federal matter that impacts passengers and crewmembers across the country as well as in interstate travel; it is not a local issue subject to jurisdictional variations. We ask that, as the FAA has placed special emphasis on its enforcement program, the Department should direct federal prosecutors to dedicate resources for egregious cases.”