Jun 21, 2021 - Economy

Airlines, unions want DOJ to prosecute unruly passengers

Photo of flight attendants tending to passengers aboard an airplane

Photo: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A coalition of airline industry partners asked the Justice Department on Monday to begin prosecuting disruptive passengers.

Why it matters: Increased political divisions and conflict over pandemic guidelines have led the Federal Aviation Administration to take some form of enforcement action over 400 times in the first five months of 2021, compared to 146 in all of 2019, according to the coalition.

What they're saying: "These incidents pose a safety and security threat to our passengers and employees, and we respectfully request that the Department of Justice ... commit to the full and public prosecution of onboard acts of violence," wrote the group, which is comprised of trade organization Airlines for America and various airline unions.

  • "Aviation safety is a federal matter that impacts passengers and crewmembers across the country as well as in interstate travel; it is not a local issue subject to jurisdictional variations," according to the letter sent Monday to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
  • The airlines and unions urged the DOJ to "commit to taking action, along with coordination with the FAA, to ensure that egregious onboard conduct is fully and criminally prosecuted, sending a strong public message of deterrence, safety and security."

Worth noting: The coalition also sent a letter to the head of the FAA asking the agency to refer "abhorrent cases" to the Justice Department "so that the federal government may fully, swiftly and publicly prosecute criminal acts to the fullest extent of the law and deter this dangerous and concerning behavior," Reuters reports.

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