FAA Refers More Unruly Passenger Cases to FBI in 2023

Thursday, April 13, 2023

WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration has referred more unruly passenger cases to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for criminal prosecution review in the first quarter of 2023. 

“If you act out on a plane, you should just stay at home because we will come after you with serious consequences,” said Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen, a former commercial airline pilot. “We have zero tolerance for unruly behavior.”

“The FBI will continue to work with our FAA partners to ensure the safety of all passengers and to combat violence aboard commercial flights,” said FBI Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the Criminal Investigative Division. “We remain committed to investigating all incidents that fall within FBI jurisdiction aboard commercial flights.” 

The 2023 referrals include the following incidents:

  • March 2023: Tried to open aircraft door and use a makeshift weapon to assault a flight attendant.
  • Jan. 2023:    Inappropriately touched a 17-year-old passenger.
  • Jan. 2023:    Refused to remain seated, acted erratically, said he needed to fly the aircraft.
  • Jan. 2023:    Assaulted a female passenger.
  • Jan. 2023:    Assaulted a flight attendant.
  • Jan. 2023:    Sexually assaulted a passenger.
  • Dec. 2022:    Passenger assaulted his wife.
  • Dec. 2022:    Assaulted flight attendants and passengers.
  • Dec. 2022:    Tried to strike a flight attendant and enter the flight deck.
  • Dec. 2022: Assaulted, threatened and intimidated flight attendants.
  • Dec. 2022:    Assaulted another passenger.
  • Dec. 2022:    Inappropriately touched another passenger.
  • July 2022:    Threatened and intimidated flight attendants and passengers.
  • July 2022:    Assaulted another passenger.
  • July 2022:    Threatened flight attendants and passenger.
  • April 2022:     Sexually assaulted a flight attendant.
  • April 2022:     Assaulted a flight attendant and passenger, deployed evacuation slide.

The FBI recently stood up a Crimes Aboard Aircraft webpage with information about the types of crimes it investigates and how people can report them.

The FAA has referred more than 250 of the most serious cases to the FBI since late 2021 under a partnership aimed at ensuring unruly airline passengers face criminal prosecution when warranted. 

The rate of unruly passenger incidents has dropped by over 80 percent since record-highs in early 2021 but unacceptable behavior continues to occur.

The FAA pursues legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crewmembers, and can propose civil penalties up to $37,000 per violation. Detailed current data on these incidents is available on our unruly passenger website