Groups call for DOJ to prosecute unruly passengers to 'fullest extent of the law'

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A coalition of airline lobbying groups and unions are calling for the Justice Department to prosecute unruly passengers "to the fullest extent of the law" following a sharp increase in incidents on flights.

"The federal government should send a strong and consistent message through criminal enforcement that compliance with federal law and upholding aviation safety are of paramount importance," the letter said.

MORE: FAA chief says alarming increase in unruly passengers should concern everyone

The group cited a law that prohibits assault or intimidation of flight crew members, which can result in a fine or imprisonment.

"Making these prosecutions public will put a spotlight on the serious consequences when breaking the law and will act as an effective deterrent against future onboard disruptions," the coalition wrote.

PHOTO: Travelers queue up in long lines to pass through the south security checkpoint in Denver International Airport, on June 16, 2021, in Denver. (David Zalubowski/AP)
PHOTO: Travelers queue up in long lines to pass through the south security checkpoint in Denver International Airport, on June 16, 2021, in Denver. (David Zalubowski/AP)

Steve Dickson, the FAA administrator, signed an order earlier this year directing his agency to take a "zero-tolerance" approach to incidents with unruly passengers.

"Flying is the safest mode of transportation and I signed this order to keep it that way," Dickson said at the time.

PHOTO: In this April 12, 2021, file photo, people queue in a security checkpoint at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Washington. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters, FILE)
PHOTO: In this April 12, 2021, file photo, people queue in a security checkpoint at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Washington. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters, FILE)

There have been 3,000 unruly passenger incidents so far this year -- 2,300 of which were over mask wearing, according to the FAA.

MORE: 3,000 unruly passengers so far this year -- 2,300 cases over mask wearing: FAA

The agency has identified 394 cases this year where passengers have potentially broken the law by "interfering with the duties of a crew member." That's 2 1/2 times the number of incidents investigated in 2019.

When asked how many people had actually paid the proposed fines this year for violating federal law, Dickson said they were "still in the very early stages."

Groups call for DOJ to prosecute unruly passengers to 'fullest extent of the law' originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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