AG Garland directs US attorneys to prioritize prosecution of unruly aircraft passengers

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The Justice Department directed U.S. attorneys Wednesday to prioritize prosecutions of commercial aircraft passengers who "endanger the safety" of other passengers, flight crews and flight attendants.

Amid Thanksgiving holiday travel, the DOJ released a statement reminding Americans that federal law prohibits "assaults, intimidation and threats of violence that interfere with flight crews and flight attendants."

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"Passengers who assault, intimidate or threaten violence against flight crews and flight attendants do more than harm those employees; they prevent the performance of critical duties that help ensure safe air travel," said Attorney General Garland. "Similarly, when passengers commit violent acts against other passengers in the close confines of a commercial aircraft, the conduct endangers everyone aboard."

Tampa, Florida, skyline with warm sunset light with a commercial passenger jet airliner plane arriving or departing the International Airport.

The DOJ statement also touted the success of an information-sharing protocol between the Federal Aviation Administration and the Justice Department that "helps ensure the department is notified about criminal conduct" on commercial flights.

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A Southwest Airlines flight lands at General Mitchell International Airport Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash) (AP Newsroom)

According to DOJ, the protocol "has already resulted in the referral of dozens of incidents by the FAA to the FBI for investigation."

Garland said DOJ stands ready to use its "resources to do its part to prevent violence, intimidation, threats of violence and other criminal behavior" that endangers people on commercial flights.

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