Administration

Biden says he has directed DOJ to focus on violence from unruly airline passengers

President Biden
WhiteHouse.gov

President Biden on Thursday said he has directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to “deal with” the spike in reports of unruly passengers on airplanes.

“Scott I want you to know I talked to the Justice Department to make sure that we deal with the violence on aircraft coming from those people who are taking issues,” Biden said, addressing United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby while delivering remarks in Illinois.

“We’re going to deal with that,” he added.

The Hill reached out to the DOJ and the White House for more information.

Biden’s remarks come as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is grappling with a sharp surge in reports of unruly airline passengers, many of which have been mask-related.

According to the TSA, there have been more than 4,600 reports of unruly passengers in the past year, with 3,366 of them being related to masks.

Nearly 850 investigations have been initiated.

Masks are required on airplanes and at airports across the U.S. to stem the spread of COVID-19. Such policies have paved the way for Americans to resume air travel since the pandemic first started in March 2020, after the industry saw a steep drop in the number of passengers traveling.

A federal mask mandate was put in place for all transportation services in February, and will remain effective through January. In early September the Department of Homeland Security announced that passengers who refuse to abide by the requirement will be subject to fines that are two times larger than previously established.

In August, two people were arrested at Nashville International Airport after they allegedly refused to wear masks during their flight.

One of the passengers, who was aboard a Spirit Airlines flight, would not wear a mask and proceeded to call the flight crew “vulgar names.”

Delta Air Lines announced last month that it is creating a “no fly” passenger list in response to the spike in unruly travelers, which already has more than 1,600 entries.

Some lawmakers are becoming increasingly frustrated by the spike in reports of unruly passengers.

Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) penned letters to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Steve Dickson last month requesting that their teams do more to crack down on the reports of unruly passengers.

Specifically, they requested that more be done to criminally prosecute the disruptive travelers.

Biden touched on the issue of unruly passengers early last month, telling travelers to “show some respect.”

“The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others doing their job is wrong, it’s ugly,” he added.

Tags Dick Durbin Joe Biden Maria Cantwell Merrick Garland

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