Jan 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

FAA will pursue "strong enforcement" after unruly pro-Trump passengers disrupt flights

Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson testifies before a Senate panel examining safety certification of jetliners on June 17, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson testifies before a Senate panel examining safety certification of jetliners on June 17, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo: Pool/Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday that the agency will "pursue strong enforcement action against anyone who endangers the safety of a flight," after unruly behavior took place on several flights to and from the Washington, D.C. area this week.

Driving the news: American Airlines is investigating an unruly and frightening episode on a flight to D.C., the night before a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. Alaska Airlines said it had banned 14 passengers after a rowdy flight from an airport near Washington, D.C., to Seattle on Thursday, per Bloomberg.

  • The Association of Flight Attendants said in a statement Saturday that every "airline flying out of the region over the last several days has experienced incidents onboard." This included unruly behavior, as well as passengers refusing to wear face masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What they're saying: Federal law requires that passengers follow safety orders from flight attendants and pilots. "The FAA will pursue strong enforcement action against anyone who endangers the safety of a flight, with penalties ranging from monetary fines to jail time," FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said.

  • The flagged behavior "includes unruly passenger behavior, which can distract, disrupt and threaten crew members’ ability to conduct their key safety functions,” he said.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, on Thursday urged the Transportation Security Administration and the FBI to add participants of Wednesday’s riot to the No-Fly List.

  • "This should include all individuals identified as having entered the Capitol building—an intrusion which threatened the safety of Members of Congress and staff and served as an attack on our Nation," Thompson said in a statement.
  • "Alleged perpetrators of a domestic terrorist attack who have been identified by the FBI should be held accountable.”

Worth nothing: At least five non-career FAA staff members resigned this week after Wednesday's deadly riot.

  • "Our colleagues’ decisions, given the gravity of yesterday’s events, are understandable," said FAA chief of staff Angela Stubblefield in a statement, per the Washington Post.
  • "Like all of us, they are outraged by the brazen and violent attack on one of the sacred institutions of American democracy.”
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