June 22 (UPI) — A coalition of U.S. airlines and employee unions on Monday urged the Biden administration to criminally prosecute passengers’ unruly and disruptive behavior onboard aircraft.
A group including the carrier trade organizations and unions representing pilots, flight attendants and transport workers together called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to “commit to the full and public prosecution of onboard acts of violence.”
“These incidents pose a safety and security threat to our passengers and employees,” they said in a letter.
Their call comes after the Federal Aviation Administration reported last week it has received 3,000 cases of unruly behavior by passengers so far this year, including 2,300 for refusing to comply with face mask mandates.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson in January announced a stricter, “zero tolerance” legal enforcement policy against unruly passengers in which offenders could face fines of up to $35,000 and imprisonment for interfering with crew members.
Under the new guidelines, the FAA has levied a combined $368,000 in civil penalty actions against 21 passengers so far, but fines alone aren’t enough to address the spike in bad behavior, the coalition said.
“We ask that more be done to deter egregious behavior, which is in violation of federal law and crew member instruction,” they said. “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.”
The letter was signed by the Air Line Pilots Association, Allied Pilots Association, Association of Professional Flight Attendants and the National Air Carrier Association, among other organizations.
The trade group Airlines for America also wrote separately to Dickson asserting the U.S. government “is well equipped to prosecute unruly and disruptive onboard behavior” under federal laws prohibiting assault or intimidation of a flight crewmember or flight attendant.
“Making these prosecutions public will put a spotlight on the serious consequences when breaking the law and will act as an effective deterrent against future onboard disruptions,” the group said.