FAA sends disruptive passenger cases to FBI for criminal review

Photo (c) RichLegg - Getty Images

Flight attendants want to go as far as banning unruly passengers from all airlines

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has decided that it’s had enough of unruly passengers on airlines. The agency has asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to step in and handle 37 of the most serious unruly passenger cases it has had to deal with in recent months. The action is part of a new information-sharing protocol that the two agencies will use to review and prosecute incidents more quickly.

Even though the FAA saw a reduction in the number of instances after it launched its Zero Tolerance campaign and fined hundreds of passengers for acting up on flights, it still feels even a single incident is one too many. 

In addition to getting the FBI involved, the agency said it no longer will address unruly passenger cases with warnings or counseling. Instead, it will turn up the heat by “pursuing legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members.” 

“Let this serve both as a warning and a deterrent: If you disrupt a flight, you risk not just fines from the FAA but federal criminal prosecution as well,” FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson said Thursday in a news release.

Adding even more muscle

The FAA is also adding some extra muscle in the way of fines to try to curb bad behavior. In the past, the agency fined unruly passengers up to $25,000 per incident. Going forward, those fines are now set at up to $37,000 for each violation.

Flight attendants -- who have had to deal with the brunt of unruly passenger disruptions -- are also asking for more help. AFA-CWA International, a flight attendants association, has been trying to persuade airlines, airports, and federal authorities to go as far as creating and sharing a list of violators and denying those travelers permission to fly via any airline.

“The vitriol, verbal and physical abuse from a small group of passengers - yet at a steady rate - is unacceptable and puts everyone onboard at risk. This is not a new normal we are willing to accept. The federal government, airlines and airports must redouble efforts to hold every disruptive passenger accountable,” the association said in a Facebook post.

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