According to the FAA, more than thirty unruly passengers will be reported to the FBI in 2023.
Just over three dozen passengers have already been charged with crimes in 2023, including almost two dozen more who have been accused of physically or sexually assaulting other passengers or members of the flight crew.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation received 22 new reports of unruly passengers occurrences on commercial aircraft in the second quarter of this year for “criminal prosecution review.” 39 instances have been forwarded to the FBI since the beginning of the year. A passenger who reportedly airdropped a bomb threat to fellow passengers in October of last year is among the notable referrals. Another incident from July 2022, according to the FAA, involved a passenger who “sexually/physically assaulted an unaccompanied minor.” In April of this year, the FAA reports that a passenger “yelled, cursed, threw objects at passengers and had to be restrained in cuffs.”
The FAA can only impose civil fines on passengers who disobey its zero-tolerance policy for disruptive behavior during flight, and it routinely refers the most severe cases to the Justice Department for potential criminal charges. The rule went into force on January 13, 2021, in response to an uptick in instances involving rowdy passengers. The policy bypasses admonitions or counseling and jumps right to harsh fines and jail time as consequences.
Nearly 6,000 incidences of disorderly behavior were reported to the FAA in 2021 compared to 1,161 prior to the Covid-19 epidemic in 2019, as aviation traffic increased from historic lows brought on by the pandemic. Reports decreased to 2,455 in 2022. 1,177 occurrences have been reported thus far this year. Only a small percentage of reported instances are looked into, and even fewer result in enforcement action, frequently in the form of penalties. Only a small percentage of cases reach the FBI for potential criminal prosecution. Since 2021, the FAA reports that the FBI has been referred to more than 270 cases.
A guy accused of grabbing a flight attendant was given a six-month prison term last year, and another rowdy customer was given a four-month prison term. Since reaching a peak in 2021, the number of occurrences involving rowdy passengers has decreased by “80%,” according to the FAA, “but unacceptable behavior continues to occur.”