Reed to discuss efforts to keep air travel safe amid uptick of in-flight violence

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Sen. Jack Reed is joining flight attendants and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials at T.F. Airport on Thursday to discuss efforts to keep air travel safe.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has received approximately 2,500 reports of unruly behavior by passengers since the beginning of the year, more than 20 times the number of incidents typically referred to the agency all year.

Of the roughly 2,500 reports of in-flight violence, the FAA says about 1,900 reports involve passengers refusing to comply with the federal face mask mandate.

Until further notice, those traveling are still required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

Amid the uptick of in-flight incidents involving disruptive passengers, Reed says more must be done to keep airline passengers and their crews safe, especially with more people expected to travel this summer.

The TSA recorded more than 1.95 million people passing through security checkpoints at American airports last Friday, the busiest air travel day since the start of the pandemic last year. The high number of travelers last week compares to just 353,261 people traveling through U.S. airports last year.

Recently, both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines announced temporary plans to postpone alcohol sales onboard flights.

Reed, a senior member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, says more comprehensive action is needed, including prosecuting bad behavior onboard flights to the fullest extent of the law.

A news release from Reed’s office says the senator is also exploring a range of federal efforts to stiffen penalties for those convicted of violently assaulting a crewmember.

According to the FAA, federal law prohibits interfering with aircraft crew, physically assaulting or threatening to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft. Passengers are subject to civil penalties for that kind of misconduct, though federal law provides for criminal fines and imprisonment of passengers who interfere with the performance of a crewmember’s duties by assaulting or intimidating that crewmember.

The FAA is strictly enforcing a zero-tolerance policy toward passengers who cause disturbances on flights or fail to obey flight crew instructions in violation of the FAA’s regulations or engage in conduct proscribed by federal law.

Last week, the FAA proposed civil penalties ranging from $9,000 to $15,000 against five airline passengers for “allegedly interfering with and, in two cases, assaulting flight attendants who instructed them to obey cabin crew instructions and various federal regulations.”

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