A possible return to calm in the skies came about Wednesday when U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland directed federal prosecutors to prioritize the prosecution of individuals who commit assaults and other crimes when in flight.
“I am directing United States Attorneys to prioritize prosecution of federal crimes occurring on commercial aircraft that endanger the safety ofpassengers, flight crews, and flight attendants,” Garland wrote in a memorandum to the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and all U.S. attorneys.
“Passengers who assault, intimidate, or threaten violence against flight crews and flight attendants do more than harm those employees; they prevent the performance of critical duties that help ensure safe air travel,” he said in the memo. “Similarly, when passengers commit violent acts against other passengers in the close confines of a commercial aircraft, the conduct endangers everyone aboard.”
Over the past year, there have been 5,338 reports of unruly passengers, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Almost 3,900 of them were face mask-related incidents.
The FAA has traditionally addressed such cases with civil penalties but, despite the high amount of proposed fines, the incidents have continued unabated.
Airlines hope that the threat of federal prosecution will decrease the number of in-flight incidents that have been taking place.
The face mask mandate mask requirement was put into place shortly after the inauguration of President Joseph Biden in January 2021. It requires travelers to don masks on airplanes, trains, and buses as well as at airports and bus and train stations.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)