Federal officers mentioned Thursday they’ve referred greater than 250 unruly airline passengers to the FBI for doable felony prosecution since late 2021, together with one as just lately as final month, when a person tried to stab a flight attendant with a broken-off spoon.
The tempo of the felony referrals is slowing, nonetheless. The Federal Aviation Administration recognized 17 instances it has despatched to the FBI within the first three months of this yr — principally for incidents that occurred final yr however took time to analyze.
Airways have reported fewer instances of unruly passengers since final April, when a federal choose struck down a requirement that folks put on masks on planes and public transportation. Earlier than that ruling, about two-thirds of all incidents on planes concerned disputes over masks.
The FAA can levy civil fines however lacks authority to file felony fees, so it asks the FBI to step in for essentially the most severe instances.
“If you happen to act out on a airplane, it is best to simply keep at dwelling as a result of we are going to come after you with severe penalties,” performing FAA Administrator Billy Nolen mentioned in an announcement. “We’ve got zero tolerance for unruly habits.”
The FBI didn’t say how usually it acts on the FAA referrals. Assistant Director Luis Quesada mentioned the bureau is “dedicated to investigating all incidents that fall inside FBI jurisdiction aboard industrial flights,” however didn’t present numbers.
The FAA announcement about got here as lawmakers push laws to create a brand new no-fly listing for folks convicted or fined for interfering with flight crews. An identical proposal backed by airline unions failed to realize floor final yr within the face of opposition from conservatives and civil libertarians. The present FBI no-fly listing is aimed toward folks suspected of terrorism ties.
The 17 instances that the FAA has referred this yr embrace allegations of assaults towards flight attendants and fellow passengers, makes an attempt to open airplane exits throughout flights, and attempting to interrupt into the cockpit.
In the latest case, passengers helped subdue a person who, prosecutors say, tried to open an emergency door and tried to stab a flight attendant with a damaged steel spoon throughout a flight from Los Angeles to Boston.