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Airlines, Aviation Unions Call For Harsher Penalties For Unruly Passengers

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A coalition of airlines and major aviation unions have come together to ask U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to take a stand on harsher penalties for unruly passengers.

Delta Arlines flight from Regan National Airport to Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport
ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 21: Flight attendants hand out refreshments to a packed Delta Airlines flight traveling from Ronald Regan National Airport to MinneapolisSaint Paul International Airport on Friday, May 21, 2021. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Since Jan. 1 of this year, the Federal Aviation Administration has received approximately 3,000 reports of unruly behavior by passengers, including about 2,300 reports of passengers refusing to comply with the federal face covering mandate.

Because of the uptick, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson implemented a zero tolerance policy.​

"By law, you must follow all directions from your flight attendants," he said. "Passengers who do not are subject to tough penalties which can include heavy fines and jail time."

But, despite the fact that it's a federal crime to assault or intimidate flight crews, many cases are handled in a non-criminal, civil prosecution, which is why a coalition of airlines and unions — led by Airlines for America — are urging Garland to send a strong message in favor of criminal prosecution saying, in part:

"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."

Local passengers seemed to be in favor of harsh penalties for those who become unruly.

"We get prosecuted if we assault somebody on the street, right," Gina Tabrizy said. "I don't understand why it would be any different."

"Absolutely 100% they should be made public," Bryan Wallace said. "What these people look like and they their names are."

Others had some more creative ideas about how to handle unruly passengers in the air.

"I think they should hold like a jail cell on the plane and put passengers in there, keep them captive until they land," Cindy Fernandez said.

Of the roughly 3,000 reports of unruly behavior this year, the FAA said it has identified 465 cases of potential violations and has taken action in 57 cases.

CBS Los Angeles reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice but did not immediately hear back.

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