Lawmakers, airline industry call for new action against unruly passengers
WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers, aviation unions and others on Thursday called for further action in an attempt to deter growing reports of unruly passenger incidents.
Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) wants other U.S. airlines to share lists of passengers who have been banned during the COVID-19 pandemic for disruptive behavior to help deter aggressive behavior.
“We have also asked other airlines to share their no-fly lists to further protect airline employees across the industry,” Delta said in a memo seen by Reuters. “A banned customer list doesn’t work as well if that customer can travel with another airline.”
Delta said that since the COVID-19 pandemic, it had put more than 1,600 people on its no-fly list. United Airlines has banned more than 1,000 people.
Chamber of Transport Speaker Peter DeFazio asked Thursday at a “air rage” hearing whether there were any legal obstacles to airlines sharing “no-fly” lists. He said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) could potentially create a list from contributions from airlines.
The rate of unruly air passenger incidents has fallen sharply but remains twice as high as last year, the FAA said Thursday.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat, asked why the Justice Department is not doing more to prosecute unruly air passengers.
“The Justice Department has been slow to conduct criminal investigations or seek charges,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) said at the hearing. “We need… Congress to encourage the DOJ to take these (enforcement) measures.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice noted that interference with flight crew members is a federal offense punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The department “treats interference with flight crew members the same as any other case we investigate. We use prosecutorial discretion to decide which cases are appropriate for federal prosecution.”
Some flyers balked at a federal face mask mandate imposed amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which was recently extended until early 2022. Thousands of airlines have been banned from some airlines for having refused to comply and some face federal civil fines of $ 9,000 for defying mask requirements. . Read more
In June, Airlines for America and the aviation unions called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to prosecute the growing number of disruptive and violent air passengers, a request that was also made earlier this week by two senior Democratic senators.
Lauren Beyer, vice president of Airlines for America, suggested lawmakers contact the Department of Justice “and urge them to ask federal prosecutors to devote the necessary resources to deal with these cases.”
To date this year, there have been 4,385 reports of unruly passenger incidents, of which 3,199 are mask related. The FAA has imposed more than $ 1 million in proposed fines.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson in January imposed a zero tolerance order on passenger disruption on planes after supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump disrupted flights around the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6. This policy will extend at least as long as the requirements for masks on airplanes are in place.
Reporting by David Shepardson and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Mark Porter, Steve Orlofsky and Aurora Ellis
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