DALLAS - A flight attendants group says harsher punishments for air rage incidents are the only way to keep passengers and crew safe.
The FAA says it has referred more than three-dozen unruly airline passengers to the FBI for potential criminal prosecution so far this year amid a rise in onboard incidents.
"We have been pushing anyone who will listen in Congress to prioritize and have swift consequences for those who would assault flight attendants on board an aircraft," said Paul Hartshorn Jr., Association of Professional Flight Attendants Spokesperson.
The US Attorney General is now calling on federal prosecutors to prioritize air-rage incidents and encouraged swift consequences. An FAA spokesman said the agency had initiated 227 enforcement cases and referred 37 to the FBI for review.
"When they face jail time and they are aware of the consequences of assaulting someone at 35,000 feet, which is just crazy to say anyway, that hopefully they'll think twice before they do," Hartshorn, Jr. said.
Many of the union's 26,000 American Airlines flight attendants have taken free TSA self-defense training. He says it's not ideal to have the flight crew jumping from customer service roles to policing the passengers.
"It's crazy to think about the position that we've been put in now. Obviously the issue of alcohol abuse that we're dealing with, the issue of mass compliance, we're trying to keep the cabin environment safe," Hartshorn, Jr. said.
The FAA proposed $161,823 in fines against eight airline passengers for alleged unruly behavior involving alcohol. Union reps hope stiffer penalties will help calm things down.
"If you're going around and you're being verbally abusive, you know, or, you know, physical with the agents, there's consequences behind it," said Anetra Session, CWA Local 6001, District Rep.
Eight passengers, including two from flight out of North Texas, have been fined some $22,000 each.