There were more than 250 cases of unruly passengers referred to the FBI since late 2021, according to theFederal Aviation Administration.
The agency says the rate has dropped by more than 80% since record highs in early 2021 but insists the number is still too high.
Some of the cases referred to the FBI this year include sexual assaults of passengers, assaults of flight attendants, and a person who reportedly acted erratically and said he needed to fly the plane.
“The FBI will continue to work with our FAA partners to ensure the safety of all passengers and to combat violence aboard commercial flights,” said FBI Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the Criminal Investigative Division. “We remain committed to investigating all incidents that fall within FBI jurisdiction aboard commercial flights.”
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In 2021, there were nearly 6,000 reports of unruly passengers. Many of those reports stemmed from a pandemic-era rule that required masks to be worn on planes. The rule was no longer enforced after a judge struck it down in April 2022.
In addition to criminal penalties, unruly passengers can face civil penalties of up to $37,000 per violation.
“If you act out on a plane, you should just stay at home because we will come after you with serious consequences,” said Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen, a former commercial airline pilot. “We have zero tolerance for unruly behavior.”