As travellers take to the skies in record numbers, the US Justice Department has warned them against committing criminal acts on flights.
“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,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Wednesday.
“Similarly, when passengers commit violent acts against other passengers in the close confines of a commercial aircraft, the conduct endangers everyone aboard.”
US airlines have recorded more than 5,300 incidents in which passengers engaged in dangerous and unruly behaviour this year alone — a national record.
Passengers have physically assaulted flight attendants as well as other passengers, thrown random items or luggage, and neglected to follow safety guidelines.
US President Joe Biden publicly addressed the issue in September, telling passengers to “show some respect".
A majority of the incidents — more than 3,800 cases — related to people refusing to wear a face mask, which is required under federal law. The mandate is currently in place until January 2022.
US agencies have taken a “zero-tolerance policy” against unruly passengers, imposing hefty fines and handing perpetrators over to local law enforcement for detention.
As of August, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had issued a total of $1 million in fines for bad conduct in the air.
The FAA has co-ordinated with the Justice Department to share information and refer cases to the FBI for possible prosecution — something that occurred in 37 incidents in November.
“The Department of Justice is committed to using its resources to do its part to prevent violence, intimidation, threats of violence and other criminal behaviour that endangers the safety of passengers, flight crews and flight attendants on commercial aircraft,” Mr Garland said.