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Passengers prepare to exit an airplane after landing at the Albuquerque International Sunport on Nov. 24. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Justice Department directed U.S. attorneys on Wednesday to prioritize the prosecution of airline passengers who have committed federal crimes aboard aircraft.

Why it matters: The department's statement comes amid a surge in unruly passengers incidents, with the Federal Aviation Administration reporting more than 5,000 occurrences this year.

  • The FAA and the DOJ established an information-sharing protocol in August to "ensure the department is notified about criminal conduct occurring on commercial aircraft," per the release.
  • Attorney General Merrick Garland reiterated that federal law prohibits assaults, intimidation and threats of violence, adding that such conduct "endangers everyone aboard."

The bottom line: Passengers who harm "flight crews and flight attendants ... prevent the performance of critical duties that help ensure safe air travel," Garland said in a statement.

  • "The Department of Justice is committed to using its resources to do its part to prevent violence, intimidation, threats of violence ... that endangers the safety of passengers, flight crews and flight attendants," he added.

What they're saying: Sara Nelson, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA international president, said in an emailed statement that consequences need to be swift and clear to keep travel safe.

  • "We want to take people to New Orleans, Seattle, Fort Lauderdale, or to see Grandma. We do not want to take them to jail," she added.
  • The "DOJ can now make it clear that's where you’re going if you refuse to cooperate and act out violently on a plane."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Sara Nelson.

Go deeper

D.C.'s violence interruption program to expand

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The violence interruption program Cure the Streets will expand next year to four D.C. neighborhood areas to address gun violence.

Driving the news: D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine yesterday announced that the initiative, run through his office since 2018, will grow to ten locations this coming spring.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Health measures taken to combat COVID-19 before the emergence of Omicron would also help against the new variant of concern, World Health Organization officials said Friday.

What they're saying: Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, said during a virtual briefing broadcast from Manila, Philippines, that border controls imposed by the U.S. and other nations can "buy time" to deal with the variant, but warned "every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases."

4 hours ago - Health

Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Nevada's Public Employees' Benefit Program Board voted Thursday to charge workers enrolled in public employee health insurance plans a surcharge of up to $55 a month if they're not vaccinated against COVID-19, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Why it matters: Nevada is the first state to announce such a move, per AP.