Reprinted with permission from AlterNet
Airline unions have been calling for an increase in prosecutions of violent, unruly passengers, and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland agrees. Garland, according to the Associated Press, is promising aggressive federal prosecutions for passengers who become abusive with airline employees.
Airlines, AP reports, have seen "a large increase in the number of investigations into passenger behavior" — and many of these incidents involve people who don't want to comply with airlines' mask requirements.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines have been asking passengers to please wear face masks on flights and to remove them only when they're eating or drinking — which is perfectly reasonable. But anti-maskers have been abusing flight attendants for enforcing that rule.
AP notes, "Airlines have reported more than 5000 incidents involving unruly passengers this year, with more than 3600 of those involving people who refused to wear face masks. Garland said, in a statement, that such passengers do more than harm employees."
The U.S. attorney general warned, "They prevent the performance of critical duties that help ensure safe air travel. Similarly, when passengers commit violent acts against other passengers in the close confines of a commercial aircraft, the conduct endangers everyone aboard."
AP notes that the Federal Aviation Administration has "referred 37 cases involving unruly airline passengers to the FBI for possible criminal prosecution since the number of disruptions on flights began to increase in January."
Steve Dickson, an FAA administrator, is quoted as saying, "The unacceptable disruptive behavior that we're seeing is a serious safety threat to flights, and we're committed to our partnership with the DOJ to combat it."