Sun, 24 Oct 2021

WASHINGTON D.C.: On Monday, Attorney-General Merrick Garland was urged by two senior U.S. Senate Democrats to investigate and prosecute unruly air passengers, in light of the rising number of disturbances on passenger flights.

The two senators, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin and Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, called on the Justice Department and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to jointly "ensure qualifying passenger behavior is criminally prosecuted."

Both senators wrote a letter to the FAA stressing "civil penalties alone are failing to deter criminal activity by airline passengers."

The FAA and Justice Department have not commented.

Airlines for America, a group representing major U.S. airlines, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, as well as aviation unions, asked Garland in June to prosecute disruptive and violent air passengers.

"These incidents pose a safety and security threat to our passengers and employees, and we respectfully request the Justice Department to commit to the full and public prosecution of onboard acts of violence," the group said in a letter.

Currently, 4,284 incidents involving unruly passenger have been reported, with 3,123 being face mask-related.

The FAA has issued more than $1 million in proposed fines and filed 154 criminal cases.

Following disruptive behavior on flights around the attack on the U.S. Capitol on 6th January by supporters of former President Donald Trump, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson implemented a zero-tolerance order covering passenger disturbances on planes.

"It is critical for the DOJ's direct federal law enforcement agents and prosecutors to use these authorities to fully investigate reported incidents on planes and, when supported by evidence, prosecute those who are criminally responsible," the letter to Garland stated.

A related hearing will be held by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which will be attended by aviation unions and other industry officials.

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