The FAA said it sent the “most egregious cases” to the Justice Department. In a rare joint statement released first to CNN, the two agencies said they “are working closely to ensure unruly airline passengers are prosecuted when warranted.”
The multi-agency announcement comes after months of pressure from unions of airline workers for the federal government to step up violence on commercial flights. Flight crews have reported 5,033 such incidents so far this year, and the FAA has taken enforcement action in 227 cases.
“When the evidence supports a criminal review, the FAA refers cases to the FBI,” the joint statement said.
The FAA also released a new public service announcement on Thursday, highlighting a letter from the FAA referring a case to the Department of Justice and describing an actual fine imposed. “You don’t want this letter,” the ad says, hoping to deter bad behavior.
“I think we’re making good progress, but there is definitely more to do,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on Wednesday. . “It really requires the cooperation of all these private sector players and including airports, as well as various aspects of the federal government. “
President Joe Biden said in early October he called on the Justice Department to tackle growing violence on planes as passengers resisting mask demands threatened airline staff.
“I have asked the Department of Justice to make sure that we deal with the violence on board the planes from these problematic people,” Biden said at an Oct. 7 event outside of Chicago. . “We’ll take care of it. “
Federal investigators charged Brian Hsu of Irvine, Calif., With assault and interference with a flight crew on Monday, alleging he punched an American Airlines flight attendant in the face. The charges brought could be punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Court documents detailing the October 27 incident indicate that the flight attendant was trying to prevent Hsu from reaching the washroom while the seat belt panel was on. Hsu, who said he was returning home from brain surgery, told investigators he was acting in self-defense.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated which agency posted a public service announcement warning of the consequences of bad behavior. It was the FAA.