Airlines, unions ask AG to crack down on passenger violence

Organizations representing both the corporations and their employees are seeking criminal prosecution against passengers who put the safety of others at risk while traveling.

Organizations representing airlines and employees sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday urging strict enforcement and consequences after a year of increased incidents of violent passengers.

Together, the corporation and their activists are urging the Justice Department and the Federal Aviation Administration to push for “public prosecution” of passengers who violently board the ship. The letter was sent by 10 different organizations, including Airlines for America, the Allied Pilots Association, the Transportation Workers Union of America, and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.

“In particular, the federal government must send a strong and consistent message through criminal enforcement that compliance with federal law and maintaining aviation safety is paramount,” the letter said.

He later said enforcement should be “coherent and vigorous” by sending serious cases to federal prosecutors.

A separate letter was sent from Airlines for America to FAA Administrator Steve Dixon, thanking him for his commitment to flight safety, but urging the agency to push for more stringent penalties. Although the FAA has insisted on a “zero tolerance” policy for unruly passengers, it appears that many passengers still haven’t gotten the message, the organization wrote.

“Unfortunately, we see onboard behavior deteriorating into heinous acts, including attacks, threats and intimidation of crew members that directly interfere with the performance of crew duties and the safety and security of everyone on board the aircraft.” put at risk,” Airlines for America said.

The letter also requested that Dixon direct the FAA to begin referring cases to federal prosecutors, which go beyond fines and a lifetime flight ban for actual criminal enforcement. Airlines for America also called for Dixon to amplify its “zero tolerance” message.

“We respectfully request that the FAA and other federal agencies use all resources, including the media, to extend the message to reach all travelers about the proposed penalties, so that there is a very public view on the sentences given to offenders.” put the spotlight on,” said the US to the airlines. “It will send a powerful message if the flying public sees that criminals are actually paying hefty fines and going to jail after being convicted.”

A passenger wears a face mask on a flight from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on February 3, 2021.Charlie Riedel / AP File

Last month, the FAA said the decline in airline travel was due to a large increase in undocumented passenger reports despite the pandemic. Typically the agency receives about 100 to 150 formal cases of poor passenger behavior.

But the number of reported cases has risen to 1,300 since the beginning of the year.

Sarah Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants’ Union, said last month that the amount of physical and verbal abuse flight attendants have reportedly experienced this year is “off the charts” compared to the past 20 years.

“We’ve seen on our planes that flight attendants are being physically assaulted, pushed, suffocated,” Nelson said. “We have a passenger pee. We had a passenger spit in the mouth of a child on board.”

Last year, an Allegiant Air flight to Provo, Utah, got into a fight when a passenger refused to wear a face mask. The passenger wearing a face shield but not wearing a mask got into an argument with a flight attendant and a fight broke out between him and another person.

Last month, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant lost two teeth after a passenger physically assaulted her on a flight from Sacramento, California, to San Diego. The airline said the passenger “repeatedly ignored standard inflight instructions and became verbally and physically abusive upon landing.”

The FAA proposed fines for five different passengers who violated federal aviation regulations, ranging from refusing to wear a mask to assault, totaling more than $60,000. According to the FAA, in an incident on a JetBlue flight from Miami to Los Angeles on February 22, a passenger in the main cabin attacked a flight attendant.

When the attendant retrieved items delivered to the main cabin passenger from a passenger in first class, the chief cabin passenger allegedly “shouted obscenity,” followed her in first class and attacked the steward with her body, “Pushed him into the toilet,” the agency said. The flight was diverted to Austin, Texas, where the main-cabin passenger was removed.

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