Biden’s Justice Department puts unruly airline passengers on notice

Although the FAA has implemented a zero-tolerance policy for non-compliance with masks and other bad behavior, and has imposed record numbers of fines, flight crew unions have complained that law enforcement is lagging behind the DOJ and urged the administration to do more, about the behavior.

Earlier this month, the FAA referred 37 cases of outrageous traveler behavior to the DOJ, noting that they are all convinced they meet the standard for potential criminal prosecution. An FAA spokesman said Wednesday that no other cases have been passed on since then.

“The unacceptable disruptive behavior we observe is a serious security threat to flights, and we are committed to our partnership with the DOJ to combat it,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.

Background: The FAA and DOJ have established an information exchange protocol for the FAA to refer recalcitrant passenger cases to the FBI for criminal investigation. The increased coordination was the result of a joint meeting in August where the authorities discussed a better way of referring the most serious cases to potential law enforcement.

Not only will passengers be prosecuted – the FAA can propose civil penalties of up to $ 37,000 per violation. In one of the most recent cases, the FAA proposed a total fine of more than $ 40,000 for a man accused of drinking, smoking marijuana and sexual abuse on a Southwest Airlines flight in April.

According to the FAAs latest statistics, 5,338 troubled passenger incidents were reported that year, of which 3,856 were related to mask compliance. The agency has launched 1,012 investigations and taken action in 266 cases.

The DOJ previously said it had charged 25 people with flight crew disruption in the past 13 months, but earlier this month a spokesman was unable to pinpoint exactly how many of these cases were being prosecuted.

Call for the no-fly list: Law enforcement aside, flight crew and transport workers union leaders have repeatedly urged the creation of a database containing lists of people who have been banned from flying on individual airlines. the The idea is supported by House Transportation Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Who proposed a “common database” in which airlines can exchange lists of prohibited passengers. However, there is still no movement to introduce such a thing.

What’s next: Garland has also directed attorneys to notify “the appropriate federal, state, local, tribal and district attorneys and law enforcement agencies” – including airport law enforcement – in their districts that these cases should be given top priority. “Contact the appropriate agency or agencies as quickly as possible within the next 20 days,” said Garland.

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