Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday issued a memorandum to U.S. attorneys to prioritize prosecution of federal crimes on commercial aircraft that endanger the safety of passengers, flight crews and flight attendants.
“Passengers who assault, intimidate or threaten violence against flight crews and flight attendants do more than harm those employees; they prevent the performance of critical duties that help ensure safe air travel,” Mr. Garland said in the memo.
“Similarly, when passengers commit violent acts against other passengers in the close confines of a commercial aircraft, the conduct endangers everyone aboard.”
The memorandum also highlights an information-sharing procedure between the Federal Aviation Administration and the Justice Department, which helps ensure the department is notified about criminal conduct happening on a commercial aircraft.
The protocol already has resulted in the referral of dozens of incidents by the FAA to the FBI for investigation.
The directive comes just weeks after Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the largest flight attendant union in the country, testified before a House Homeland Security about the “hostile environment” on the aircraft of her profession.
“Flight attendants have been the target of a lot of anger and strife when they put on their uniforms,” Ms. Nelson said before calling on the Justice Department to “criminally prosecute very publicly” flyers who behave badly on commercial airlines.
Earlier this year, the Transportation Security Administration relaunched self-defense courses for flight crews to handle boisterous passengers.