The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Thursday it has referred more than 36 “disruptive passengers” to the FBI and may face possible criminal prosecution, amid a sharp rise in accidents on planes this year, according to Reuters.
The administration said it relies on a joint protocol with the Department of Justice, which allows it to share information and refer cases of troubled passengers to the FBI for review.
She noted that the Department of Justice and the FBI “prioritize the review of cases referred by the FAA, and the initiation of criminal prosecutions where appropriate.”
US airlines have reported a record number of disruptive and sometimes violent incidents this year, and the FAA has pledged a “zero tolerance” approach.
The administration and the Ministry of Justice emphasized that “the coordination between them is part of a broader effort to prevent serious and uncontrolled passenger accidents.”
A spokesperson for the department said it has registered 227 cases against travelers, and has referred 37 of them to the FBI for review.
Steve Dixon, director of the Federal Aviation Administration, said cooperation with the FBI is a “warning and deterrent,” warning that if a passenger “disrupts a flight, he risks not only fines, but also federal criminal prosecution.”
On October 8, US President Joe Biden said he had instructed the Justice Department to “deal” with the growing number of violent incidents on planes.
As of November 1, 5,033 reports of “uncontrolled” passenger accidents have been recorded, including 3,642 cases related to wearing masks.
On Monday, US prosecutors in Colorado charged a 20-year-old Californian with assaulting a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight on October 27, which was bound for Santa Ana, California, forcing her to land.
Witnesses and court records said the flight attendant was punched in the nose, resulting in a haemorrhage and concussion. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker called the attack “one of the worst manifestations of behavior we have ever seen”.