Unruly Airplane Passenger Cases Referred to FBI for Prosecution

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The Federal Aviation Administration referred more than 250 cases of violent passengers to the Federal Bureau of Investigation since late 2021, the agency announced.

The FAA has sent more cases to the FBI as incidents of passenger violence on planes, including sexual assault and attacks on flight attendants, spiked during the pandemic. The FAA referred at least six cases in the first few months of 2023, including one last month where a passenger “tried to open aircraft door and use a makeshift weapon to assault a flight attendant,” the agency said.

“If you act out on a plane, you should just stay at home because we will come after you with serious consequences,” Billy Nolen, acting head of the FAA, said in a statement Thursday.

The details on referrals to the FBI could bolster efforts from a bipartisan group of lawmakers who are seeking to advance legislation (H.R. 2394) that would create a no-fly list for travelers who assault flight crew. The FAA can refer cases of violence to the FBI and can propose as much as $37,000 per violation in civil penalties.

No-Fly List for Unruly Passengers Sought in Renewed Legislation

The FAA investigated 831 unruly passenger incidents last year, a significant increase from pre-pandemic levels, and proposed $8,449,543 in fines against offenders. But the number of incidents have dropped since mask mandates were removed on planes.

Luis Quesada, FBI assistant director of the criminal investigative division, said the FBI would continue to work with the FAA “to combat violence aboard commercial flights” and investigate all incidents.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at lbyington@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com; Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergindustry.com

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