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There has been an 80% drop in cases of unruly airline passengers since 2021

A plane arrives at Salt Lake City International Airport, in Salt Lake City on March 9, 2021. Federal officials say they're asking the FBI to consider criminal prosecution of nearly two dozen more airline passengers accused of disturbances on flights. The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023 that it has now referred more than 270 cases to the FBI since late 2021.
Rick Bowmer
/
AP
A plane arrives at Salt Lake City International Airport, in Salt Lake City on March 9, 2021. Federal officials say they're asking the FBI to consider criminal prosecution of nearly two dozen more airline passengers accused of disturbances on flights. The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023 that it has now referred more than 270 cases to the FBI since late 2021.

Cases of unruly airline passenger behavior have dropped by 80% since they peaked in 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

As of Monday, the FAA has recorded 1,117 instances of unruly behavior in 2023, down from 5,973 cases in 2021.

"There is nothing especially mysterious about this," said Kathleen Andereck, the director of the Center for Sustainable Tourism at Arizona State University. "No more COVID protocols to deal with such as mask wearing, and less stress. That is what most of the drop is related to."

Twenty-two cases of particularly unruly conduct were recently referred to the FBI, the FAA said Tuesday. The violations took place from Dec. 2021 to April 2023 and include physical assault, yelling and cursing, vaping, refusing to remain seated, sexual misconduct toward flight attendants and sexually assaulting other passengers, including minors.

The FAA partnered with the FBI in 2021 to more aggressively bring criminal charges against disorderly airline passengers, in hopes of preventing future incidents. The FAA has referred about 270 cases to the FBI since the partnership began, including 39 in 2023. Passengers can face up to $37,000 in civil penalties per violation.

"Unruly behavior poses serious safety concerns for passengers and crew alike, which is why we are addressing this issue aggressively," U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ayana Archie
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